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What Is Sciatica

What Is Sciatica? Symptoms and Potential Triggers

Sciatica is characterized by pain along the course of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down the buttocks and hips, and finally down each leg. Sciatic pain typically only affects one side of the body.

Many people experience sciatica because of nerve compression caused by a bone spur, a herniated disk, or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spine). This leads to swelling, pain, and sometimes numbness in the leg.

Although sciatica can be extremely painful, most cases improve in a matter of weeks without the need for surgery. People with severe sciatica with a lot of leg weakness or changes in their bowels or bladders might be a good fit for surgery.

Sciatica Symptoms

Some common signs of sciatica are:

  • Pain in the low back
  • Hip pain
  • Pain or tingling in the lower leg
  • Leg or foot weakness, numbness, or trouble moving it
  • Pain on one side of the back all the time
  • A pain that shoots and makes it hard to stand up

Most of the time, sciatica only affects one side of the lower body. Often, the pain goes from your lower back to the back of your thigh and down your leg. You may also feel pain in your foot or toes depending on where the sciatic nerve is hurt.

Some people with sciatica have pain that is so bad that they can't do anything. For some people, sciatica pain might come and go and be annoying, but it could get worse.

You should see a doctor right away if you:

  • Fever and pain in the back
  • Pain, redness, or swelling in your back or spine
  • Leg pain that moves down
  • Tingling or weakness in the legs, upper thighs, bottom or pelvis
  • Urine that burns or has blood in it
  • A lot of pain
  • Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (leaking or not being able to make it to the toilet in time)


When the sciatic nerve is compressed, the patient experiences sciatica. Bone spurs usually cause this on your vertebrae or a herniated disk. A tumor or a disease like diabetes can damage or squeeze the nerve less often.

Some things that can cause sciatica are:


Sciatica is most often caused by changes in the spine that come with age, such as herniated disks and bone spurs.


Extra weight puts more stress on your spine, which can lead to changes in your spine that cause sciatica.


There is no conclusive evidence that jobs requiring you to twist your back, move essential things, or sit in a car for lengthy periods increase the risk of developing sciatica.

Sitting for a long time

Sciatica is more likely to happen to people who sit for long periods or live a sedentary lifestyle than to active people.


Some causes of sciatica, like degenerative disk disease, sciatica from pregnancy, or falls, may not be able to be stopped. Even though it may not be possible to prevent all cases of sciatica, the steps below can help protect your back and lower your risk:

  • Keep a good stance: When you sit, stand, lift things, and sleep, good posture techniques can help take pressure off your lower back. Pain can be an early sign that your body is not in the right place. If you start to feel stiff or sore, change how you stand.
  • Don't smoke: The blood supply to bones is cut off by nicotine. It makes the spine and disks between the vertebrae weaker, which put more stress on the spine, and disks and causes back and spine problems.
  • Keep your weight healthy: Pain and inflammation can happen all over your body if you are overweight and don't eat well. Check out the Mediterranean diet to lose weight or learn how to eat better. When you're close to your ideal weight, your spine doesn't have to work as hard.
  • Exercise regularly: Stretching keeps your joints flexible, and exercises that work your core (the muscles in your lower back and abdomen) make them stronger. These muscles help keep your back straight. Also, try not to sit for too long.
  • Sciatica is a painful feeling that comes from irritation of the sciatic nerve. If you have sciatica, you may have mild to severe back, buttock, leg pain, weakness, or numbness. You might be able to manage your pain by using hot and cold packs, stretching, taking over-the-counter painkillers, and working out regularly. You can also talk to a doctor about physical therapy, prescription drugs, steroid drugs, and, in severe cases, surgery. You may feel even better if you use complementary and medical treatments.