Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg. It is caused by injury to or compression of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is a symptom of another medical problem, not a medical condition on its own.
Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve. This nerve starts in the spine and runs down the back of each leg. This nerve controls the muscles of the back of the knee and lower leg and provides sensation to the back of the thigh, part of the lower leg, and the sole of the foot.
Common causes of sciatica include:
Sciatica pain can vary widely. It may feel like a mild tingling, dull ache, or a burning sensation. In some cases, the pain is severe enough to make a person unable to move.
The pain most often occurs on one side. Some people have sharp pain in one part of the leg or hip and numbness in other parts. The sensations may also be felt on the back of the calf or on the sole of the foot. The affected leg may feel weak.
The pain often starts slowly. Sciatica pain may get worse:
Sciatica might be revealed by a neuromuscular examination of the legs by a physician. There may be weakness of knee bending or foot movement, or difficulty bending the foot inward or down. Reflexes may be abnormal, with weak or absent ankle-jerk reflex. Pain down the leg can be reproduced by lifting the leg straight up off the examining table.
Tests are guided by the suspected cause of the dysfunction, as suggested by the history, symptoms, and pattern of symptom development. They may include various blood tests, x-rays, MRIs, or other tests and procedures.
Because sciatica is a symptom of another medical condition, the underlying cause should be identified and treated.
In some cases, no treatment is required and recovery occurs on its own.
Conservative treatment is best in many cases. Your doctor may recommend the following steps to calm your symptoms and reduce inflammation.
If at-home measures do not help, your doctor may recommend injections to reduce inflammation around the nerve. Other medicines may be prescribed to help reduce the stabbing pains associated with sciatica.
Physical therapy exercises may also be recommended. Additional treatments depend on the condition that is causing the sciatica.
Nerve pain is very difficult to treat. If you have ongoing problems with pain, you may want to see a neurologist or a pain specialist to ensure that you have access to the widest range of treatment options.
If the cause of the sciatic nerve dysfunction can be identified and successfully treated, full recovery is possible. The extent of disability varies from no disability to partial or complete loss of movement or sensation. Nerve pain may be severe and persist for a prolonged period of time.
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Also call if:
If any of these symptoms are present, your doctor will carefully check for any sign of infection (such as meningitis, abscess, or urinary tract infection), ruptured disk, spinal stenosis, hernia, cancer, kidney stone, twisted testicle, or other serious problem.
Prevention varies depending on the cause of the nerve damage. Avoid prolonged sitting or lying with pressure on the buttocks.
Neuropathy - sciatic nerve; Sciatic nerve dysfunction