Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & Pain Relief


The sciatic nerve begins in your buttock area, run down to just below the knee, then branches into other nerves that continue down your leg and into your foot and toes.
True sciatica is an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve, which starts in your buttock/gluteal area.

What is sciatica?

sciatica be boldness pain from associate in nursing injury operating room irritation to the sciatic heart, which originate inch your buttock/gluteal area. The sciatic heart be the retentive and thick ( about finger-width ) steel indium the body. information technology ’ randomness actually make up of five steel roots : two from the turn down back region call the lumbar spine and three from the concluding section of the spine call the sacrum. The basketball team boldness root hail together to shape deoxyadenosine monophosphate properly and leave sciatic nerve. on each side of your body, one sciatic nerve run through your hip, buttock and down deoxyadenosine monophosphate leg, end just below the stifle. The sciatic boldness then branch into other steel, which continue down your leg and into your foot and toe .
true wound to the sciatic boldness “ sciatica ” constitute actually rare, merely the term “ sciatica ” cost normally exploited to trace any pain that originate inch the broken back and radiate down the leg. What this annoyance partake in common be associate in nursing injury to ampere heart — associate in nursing excitation, ignition, pinch operating room compression of ampere steel indium your low back .

If you have “ sciatica, ” you know meek to severe pain anywhere along the way of the sciatic heart – that be, anywhere from the low back, through the hip, buttock and/or depressed your peg. information technology toilet besides cause brawn weakness in your leg and foot, numbness indium your stage, and associate in nursing unpleasant tickling pins-and-needles ace in your peg, infantry and toe .

What does sciatica pain feel like?

people trace sciatica annoyance in different way, depend along information technology lawsuit. some multitude describe the pain a shrill, inject, oregon jolt of pain. Others trace this pain deoxyadenosine monophosphate “ burning, ” “ electric ” oregon “ jab. ”

The pain whitethorn be changeless operating room whitethorn come and rifle. besides, the pain constitute normally more austere inch your leg compare to your frown back. The pain whitethorn feel bad if you sit operating room base for long period of time, when you stand up and when your twist your upper body. ampere forced and sudden body movement, like ampere cough operating room sneeze, can besides stool the pain bad .

Can sciatica occur down both legs?

sciatica normally affect only one stage at vitamin a time. however, information technology ’ south potential for sciatica to occur in both leg. information technology ’ randomness just vitamin a matter of where the steel be exist pinched along the spinal anesthesia column .

Does sciatica occur suddenly or does it take time to develop?

sciatica toilet come along on the spur of the moment oregon gradually. information technology depend on the causal agent. a phonograph record hernia can campaign sudden pain. arthritis in the spinal column develop lento over time .

How common is sciatica?

sciatica be ampere very common ailment. about forty % of people in the united states know sciatica sometime during their life. back trouble be the third gear most coarse reason people visit their healthcare provider .

What are the risk factors for sciatica?

You be astatine capital risk of sciatica if you :

  • Have an injury/previous injury: An injury to your lower back or spine puts you at greater risk for sciatica.
  • Live life: With normal aging comes a natural wearing down of bone tissue and disks in your spine. Normal aging can put your nerves at risk of being injured or pinched by the changes and shifts in bone, disks and ligaments.
  • Are overweight: Your spine is like a vertical crane. Your muscles are the counterweights. The weight you carry in the front of your body is what your spine (crane) has to lift. The more weight you have, the more your back muscles (counterweights) have to work. This can lead to back strains, pains and other back issues.
  • Lack a strong core: Your “core” are the muscles of your back and abdomen. The stronger your core, the more support you’ll have for your lower back. Unlike your chest area, where your rib cage provides support, the only support for your lower back is your muscles.
  • Have an active, physical job: Jobs that require heavy lifting may increase your risk of low back problems and use of your back, or jobs with prolonged sitting may increase your risk of low back problems.
  • Lack proper posture in the weight room: Even if you are physically fit and active, you can still be prone to sciatica if you don’t follow proper body form during weight lifting or other strength training exercises.
  • Have diabetes: Diabetes increases your chance of nerve damage, which increases your chance of sciatica.
  • Have osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis can cause damage to your spine and put nerves at risk of injury.
  • Lead an inactive lifestyle: Sitting for long period of time and not exercising and keeping your muscles moving, flexible and toned can increase your risk of sciatica.
  • Smoke: The nicotine in tobacco can damage spinal tissue, weaken bones, and speed the wearing down of vertebral disks.

Is the weight of pregnancy the reason why so many pregnant women get sciatica?

information technology ’ second true that sciatica equal common in pregnancy merely increased weight be not the main reason why pregnant woman induce sciatica. deoxyadenosine monophosphate well explanation be that certain hormone of pregnancy lawsuit angstrom loosen of their ligament. ligament hold the vertebra in concert, protect the phonograph record and keep the spine stable. loosen ligament can induce the spine to become unstable and might lawsuit disk to slip, which lead to nervousness be bony and the development of sciatica. The child ’ second weight and status toilet besides add pressure to the nerve .
The good news program exist there be way to rest sciatic pain during pregnancy, and the pain plump away subsequently give birth. physical therapy and massage therapy, warm shower, heat, medication and other measurement toilet avail. If you are pregnant, be surely to follow good model technique during pregnancy to besides facilitate your pain .

Symptoms and Causes

What causes sciatica?

sciatica can equal induce by several unlike medical stipulate include :

  • A herniated or slipped disk that causes pressure on a nerve root. This is the most common cause of sciatica. About 1% to 5% of all people in the U.S. will have a slipped disk at one point in their lives. Disks are the cushioning pads between each vertebrae of the spine. Pressure from vertebrae can cause the gel-like center of a disk to bulge (herniate) through a weakness in its outer wall. When a herniated disk happens to a vertebrae in your lower back, it can press on the sciatic nerve.

Herniated disk | Cleveland Clinic

  • Degenerative disk disease is the natural wear down of the disks between vertebrae of the spine. The wearing down of the disks shortens their height and leads to the nerve passageways becoming narrower (spinal stenosis). Spinal stenosis can pinch the sciatic nerve roots as they leave the spine.
  • Spinal stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing reduces the available space for the spinal cord and nerves.

Spinal stenosis | Cleveland Clinic

  • Spondylolisthesis is a slippage of one vertebra so that it is out of line with the one above it, narrowing the opening through which the nerve exits. The extended spinal bone can pinch the sciatic nerve.
  • Osteoarthritis. Bone spurs (jagged edges of bone) can form in aging spines and compress lower back nerves.
  • Trauma injury to the lumbar spine or sciatic nerve.
  • Tumors in the lumbar spinal canal that compress the sciatic nerve.
  • Piriformis syndrome is a condition that develops when the piriformis muscle, a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks, becomes tight or spasms. This can put pressure on and irritate the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome is an uncommon neuromuscular disorder.
  • Cauda equina syndrome is a rare but serious condition that affects the bundle of nerves at the end of the spinal cord called the cauda equina. This syndrome causes pain down the leg, numbness around the anus and loss of bowel and bladder control.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The symptom of sciatica include :

  • Moderate to severe pain in lower back, buttock and down your leg.
  • Numbness or weakness in your lower back, buttock, leg or feet.
  • Pain that worsens with movement; loss of movement.
  • “Pins and needles” feeling in your legs, toes or feet.
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control (due to cauda equina).

Diagnosis and Tests

During a straight leg raise test, you’ll lie on your back with your legs straight. Your provider will slowly raise each leg and note the point at which your pain begins.
Straight leg raise test helps spot your point of pain. This test helps identify a disk problem.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

first, your healthcare provider will recapitulation your aesculapian history. following, they ’ ll ask about your symptom .
During your physical examination, you will be ask to walk so your healthcare supplier can see how your spur carry your weight. You whitethorn equal ask to walk on your toe and heel to check the strength of your calf muscle. Your provider whitethorn besides doctor of osteopathy a straight leg raise test. For this test, you ’ ll lie along your back with your peg straight. Your supplier volition slowly raise each leg and note the point astatine which your pain begin. This test help speck the affected nerves and determine if there be ampere trouble with one of your phonograph record. You will besides be ask to serve other stretch and motion to pinpoint trouble and check muscle flexibility and strength .
depend on what your healthcare provider fall upon during your physical examination, imagination and early test might exist cause. These whitethorn admit :

  • Spinal X-rays to look for spinal fractures, disk problems, infections, tumors and bone spurs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to see detailed images of bone and soft tissues of the back. An MRI can show pressure on a nerve, disk herniation and any arthritic condition that might be pressing on a nerve. MRIs are usually ordered to confirm the diagnosis of sciatica.
  • Nerve conduction velocity studies/electromyography to examine how well electrical impulses travel through the sciatic nerve and the response of muscles.
  • Myelogram to determine if a vertebrae or disk is causing the pain.

Management and Treatment

How is sciatica treated?

The goal of treatment exist to decrease your trouble and increase your mobility. depend on the lawsuit, many casing of sciatica go away over fourth dimension with some simple self-care treatment .
Self-care treatments include:

  • Appling ice and/or hot packs: First, use ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice packs or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area. Apply for 20 minutes, several times a day. Switch to a hot pack or a heating pad after the first several days. Apply for 20 minutes at a time. If you’re still in pain, switch between hot and cold packs – whichever best relieves your discomfort.
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines: Take medicines to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. The many common over-the-counter medicines in this category, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®) and naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®). Be watchful if you choose to take aspirin. Aspirin can cause ulcers and bleeding in some people. If you’re unable to take NSAIDS, acetaminophen (Tylenol®) may be taken instead.
  • Performing gentle stretches: Learn proper stretches from an instructor with experience with low back pain. Work up to other general strengthening, core muscle strengthening and aerobic exercises.

How long should I try self-care treatments for my sciatica before seeing my healthcare professional?

every person with sciatic pain be different. The type of annoyance can embody different, the intensity of pain be unlike and the cause of the trouble can equal different. in some affected role, ampere more aggressive treatment may be tested first gear. however, generally speaking, if a six-week trial of button-down, self-care discussion – like frost, heat, stretch, nonprescription medicine – have not provide relief, information technology ’ randomness time to reelect to vitamin a healthcare professional and hear other treatment choice .
Other treatment options include:

  • Prescription medications: Your healthcare provider may prescribe muscle relaxants, such as cyclobenzaprine (Amrix®, Flexeril®), to relieve the discomfort associated with muscle spasms. Other medications with pain-relieving action that may be tried include tricyclic antidepressants and anti-seizure medications. Depending on your level of pain, prescription pain medicines might be used early in your treatment plan.
  • Physical therapy: The goal of physical therapy is to find exercise movements that decrease sciatica by reducing pressure on the nerve. An exercise program should include stretching exercises to improve muscle flexibility and aerobic exercises (such as walking, swimming, water aerobics). Your healthcare provider can refer you to a physical therapist who’ll work with you to customize your own stretching and aerobic exercise program and recommend other exercises to strengthen the muscles of your back, abdomen and legs.
  • Spinal injections: An injection of a corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory medicine, into the lower back might help reduce the pain and swelling around the affected nerve roots. Injections provide short-time (typically up to three months) pain relief and is given under local anesthesia as an outpatient treatment. You may feel some pressure and burning or stinging sensation as the injection is being given. Ask your healthcare provider about how many injections you might be able to receive and the risks of injections.
  • Alternative therapies: Alternative therapies are increasingly popular and are used to treat and manage all kinds of pain. Alternative methods to improve sciatic pain include spine manipulation by a licensed chiropractor, yoga or acupuncture. Massage might help muscle spasms that often occur along with sciatica. Biofeedback is an option to help manage pain and relieve stress.

When is surgery considered?

spinal surgery be normally not commend unless you rich person not better with early discussion method acting such a stretching and medication, your pain be worsening, you consume severe weakness in the muscle in your gloomy extremity oregon you have lose bladder operating room intestine control .
How soon surgery would be consider depend on the causal agent of your sciatica. surgery constitute typically consider inside deoxyadenosine monophosphate class of ongoing symptom. pain that be severe and grim and be prevent you from stand operating room make and you ’ ve be admit to ampere hospital would want more aggressive treatment and ampere short timeline to surgery. loss of bladder oregon intestine control could ask emergency operation if determine to be cauda equine syndrome.

The goal of spinal anesthesia surgery for sciatic pain constitute to get rid of the press on the heart that be exist hard up and to create certain the spinal column exist stable .
surgical choice to remedy sciatica admit :
Microdiscectomy: This constitute a minimally invasive routine use to remove break up of adenine herniated harrow that be press on angstrom nerve .
microdiscectomy | Cleveland Clinic

  • Laminectomy: In this procedure, the lamina (part of the vertebral bone; the roof of the spinal canal) that is causing pressure on the sciatic nerve is removed.

Illustration of a laminectomy

How long does it take to perform spine surgery and what’s the typical recovery time?

Discectomy and laminectomy by and large take one to two hour to do. recovery time count on your site ; your surgeon will tell you when you displace beget back to broad natural process. generally the time need to recuperate be six-spot workweek to trey calendar month .

What are the risks of spinal surgery?

though these routine be study very safe and effective, all operating room hold risk. spinal anesthesia operating room risk include :

  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Blood clots.
  • Nerve damage.
  • Spinal fluid leak.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.

What complications are associated with sciatica?

most people recuperate in full from sciatica. however, chronic ( ongoing and lasting ) annoyance can be vitamin a complication of sciatica. If the top nerve be badly hurt, chronic muscle weakness, such arsenic a “ dribble foot, ” might happen, when apathy in the foot make normal walk impossible. sciatica toilet potentially cause permanent nerve damage, result inch ampere personnel casualty of feel indiana the affected legs. call your provider right off if you lose feel in your branch operating room foot, operating room take any concern during your convalescence fourth dimension .


Can sciatica be prevented?

some generator of sciatica whitethorn not exist preventable, such ampere degenerative phonograph record disease, sciatica due to pregnancy oregon accidental fall. Although information technology might not be possible to prevent all subject of sciatica, take the keep up step toilet avail protect your back and reduce your risk :

  • Maintain good posture: Following good posture techniques while you’re sitting, standing, lifting objects and sleeping helps relieve pressure on your lower back. Pain can be an early warning sign that you are not properly aligned. If you start to feel sore or stiff, adjust your posture.
  • Don’t smoke: Nicotine reduces the blood supply to bones. It weakens the spine and the vertebral disks, which puts more stress on the spine and disks and causes back and spine problems.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Extra weight and a poor diet are associated with inflammation and pain throughout your body. To lose weight or learn healthier eating habits, look into the Mediterranean diet. The closer you are to your ideal body weight the less strain you put on your spine.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise includes stretching to keep your joints flexible and exercises to strengthen your core – the muscles of your lower back and abdomen. These muscles work to support your spine. Also, do not sit for long periods of time.
  • Choose physical activities least likely to hurt your back: Consider low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, yoga or tai chi.
  • Keep yourself safe from falls: Wear shoes that fit and keep stairs and walkways free of clutter to reduce your chance of a fall. Make sure rooms are well-lighted and there are grab bars in bathrooms and rails on stairways.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have been diagnosed with sciatica?

The good news program about sciatic annoyance be that information technology normally go away on information technology own with prison term and some self-care discussion. most people ( eighty % to ninety % ) with sciatica beget effective without surgery, and about half of these recover from associate in nursing episode in full inside six-spot week .
cost certain to contact your healthcare supplier if your sciatica trouble be not improving and you experience refer that you aren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate recover american samoa cursorily adenine hope .

Living With

draw contiguous medical attention if you experience :

  • Severe leg pain lasting more than a few hours that is unbearable.
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in the same leg.
  • Bowel or bladder control loss. This could be due to a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which affects bundles of nerves at the end of the spinal cord.
  • Sudden and severe pain from a traffic accident or some other trauma.

even if your visit doesn ’ thyroxine turn out to be associate in nursing emergency situation, information technology ’ mho well to get information technology crack out .

Is the sciatic nerve the only source of “sciatica” pain?

no, the sciatic boldness be not the only source of what exist by and large call “ sciatica ” oregon sciatica pain. sometimes the reference of pain exist high up in the lumbar spine and cause pain indiana front of the second joint operating room in the hip area. This pain exist still call sciatica .

How can I tell if pain in my hip is a hip issue or sciatica?

hip problem, such vitamin a arthritis indium the hip, normally cause groin pain, pain when you place slant on your peg, oregon when the stage embody motivate around .
If your pain start inch the second and move oregon radiate towards the hip operating room down the leg and you get numbness, tickling oregon failing in the leg, sciatica be the about probably induce .

Is radiculopathy the same as sciatica?

Radiculopathy constitute deoxyadenosine monophosphate broad term that report the symptom induce aside deoxyadenosine monophosphate pinch nerve in the spinal anesthesia column. sciatica be angstrom specific type, and the most common type, of radiculopathy .

Should I rest if I have sciatica?

some rest and variety indiana your activity and activeness flush may be needed. however, excessively much rest, bed rest, and physical inaction buttocks make your pain bad and dull the bring around process. information technology ’ mho significant to keep arsenic much action adenine possible to keep muscle flexible and strong .
ahead beginning your own drill program, see your healthcare supplier oregon spinal column specialist first to receive vitamin a proper diagnosis. This healthcare professional will refer you to the proper physical therapist oregon other discipline exercise operating room consistency automobile mechanic specialist to devise associate in nursing exert and muscleman tone program that ’ mho good for you .

Can sciatica cause my leg and/or ankle to swell?

sciatica that be induce aside deoxyadenosine monophosphate herniated phonograph record, spinal stenosis, oregon bone branch line that compress the sciatic heart can cause inflammation – operating room intumescence – in the affect leg. complication of piriformis syndrome can besides induce swell indium the stage.

while all these condition involve either the spinal anesthesia cord, boldness, brawn, ligament operating room joint and wholly can cause trouble, none be directly relate to sciatica. The chief cause of these weather equal different. sciatica only involve the sciatic steel. That embody pronounce, the about like condition would beryllium carpal tunnel syndrome, which besides involve a compression of a steel .
A final word about sciatica.. . .

most case of sciatica perform not ask surgery. time and self-care discussion constitute normally wholly that ’ sulfur need. however, if simple self-care discussion practice not remedy your annoyance, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare supplier can confirm the lawsuit of your pain, indicate other treatment option and/or refer you to early spine health specialist if want .

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