Sciatic Nerve Pain


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What is Sciatica?

The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that originates in the low back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.

The vast majority of people who experience sciatica get better with time (usually a few weeks or months) and find pain relief with non-surgical sciatica treatment. For others, however, sciatic nerve pain can be severe and debilitating.

Sciatica is often characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Pain on one side of the buttock or in one leg that is worse when sitting

  • Burning or tingling down the leg

  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot

  • A constant pain on one side of the rear

  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk


Sciatica Symptoms

For some people, sciatica pain can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica symptoms might be infrequent and irritating, but have the potential to get worse. Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the lower body, and the pain often radiates from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg.

Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain and other sciatica symptoms may also radiate, prompting foot pain or pain in the toes.

There is a wide range of possible sciatica symptoms. One or more of the following sciatica symptoms are typical:

  • Pain in the buttock or leg that is worse when sitting

  • Burning or tingling down the leg

  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot

  • A constant pain on one side of the rear

  • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up, and for some makes it difficult to walk

Sciatica Symptoms

By: Stephen H. Hochschuler, MD
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Diagram of sciatic nerve
Fig 1: Diagram of sciatic nerve
(larger view)

For some people, sciatica pain can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica symptoms might be infrequent and irritating, but have the potential to get worse. Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the lower body, and the pain often radiates from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg.

Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain and other sciatica symptoms may also radiate, prompting foot pain or pain in the toes.

There is a wide range of possible sciatica symptoms. One or more of the following sciatica symptoms are typical:

  • Pain in the buttock or leg that is worse when sitting

  • Burning or tingling down the leg

  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot

  • A constant pain on one side of the rear

  • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up, and for some makes it difficult to walk

With sciatica, low back pain may be present along with the leg pain, but usually the low back pain is less severe than the leg pain.

Sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the “sciatic nerve”.