Sciatica Symptoms - in a nutshell - generally consist of pain, numbness and/or weakness, and/or electrical type feelings such as pins and needles, shock, etc., down one leg. Initially, sciatic pain may be mild, but over time, it grows in intensity, sometimes to unbearable levels.
Most forms of sciatica originate in the lumbar spine (i.e. the low back), but the pain and/or symptoms are not typically noticed in this area.
Generally, sciatica is felt as pain that radiates from the buttock area down the leg. Although it is possible to have sciatica on both sides of the body, the pain is usually felt on one side only.
Despite its name, most cases of sciatica do not involve problems with the sciatic nerve. Rather, is thought that sciatica is frequently caused by pain from an irritated spinal nerve root in the lumbar spine that is referred to the buttock and leg on the same side of the body.
What makes Sciatica Symptoms Worse?
Symptoms of sciatica may also become worse if you sit for long periods of time, if you lie on the affected area for long periods of time and after long periods of walking. Worsening of sciatica symptoms may also be brought about by coughing, sneezing, laughing or similar reflexive actions.
Numbness or weakness of the leg or foot is another symptom of sciatica. Should weakness of the leg or foot get progressively worse, and/or if there is a loss of control or feeling of the bowels or bladder, you may have a serious condition called cauda equina syndrome.
Seek medical attention immediately.
Sciatica Symptoms Due to Slipped Disc - Some Good News
According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD), if sciatica symptoms are caused by a slipped disc, i.e. a disc that is bulging past the normal boundaries of the spinal vertebra or vertebrae to which it is attached, symptoms will often go away on their own in about 6 weeks. NIAMDS says this is the case for about 90-100% of people whose sciatica symptoms are related to a slipped disc.
After 6 weeks, the odds of symptoms dissipating on their own decreases, which may necessitate a course of physical therapy and/or surgery.
Sciatica is that pesky and sometimes excruciating pain down the leg that indicates there's a problem in your spine. It can be due to a number of things such as herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
- What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is characterized by pain, tingling or numbness down the leg. (Low back pain may also be felt, but this is less common than pain down the leg) Sciatica is caused by irritation to or stretching of the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is not an actual diagnosis you would get from your doctor after an exam and tests; rather, it's a collection of symptoms brought about by other problems in the spine. If you have herniated a disc, for example, the material that escapes from the tough outer fibers of the disc may possibly compress the sciatic nerve, causing pain and other symptoms. Spinal stenosis and spinal arthritis are two more conditions that could bring about sciatica.
- Are You at Risk for Sciatic?
There are a few main population groups who have a higher risk for sciatica than the rest of us. At highest risk are people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. These people may be very active, which increases the possibility of injury. But they are also beginning to age, and that can mean degenerative changes in the spine. Spinal conditions common to this group include stenosis and arthritis.
The next highest risk group is the sedentary. Many people who fall into the 30-50 age group are also sedentary. Sitting all day may put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain down the leg. Other people who need to watch out for sciatica are walkers, runners, diabetics and pregnant women.
- Sciatica Symptoms
So how do you know when you have sciatica? It usually shows up as a radiating pain down the leg, but may include buttock pain, weakness or numbness. If weakness of the leg or foot keeps getting worse, or if you lose control or feeling in bowel or bladder, you may have cauda equina syndrome, a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Remember that sciatica is a condition of the large sciatic nerve, which produces sciatic nerve pain when irritated. Like any nerve in the body, when pressured, it may be responsible for sharp, burning pins and needles or electrical type feelings. Positions and activities that put pressure on the sciatic nerve can worsen the pain. Sitting for a long period of time is perhaps the best example.
- Sciatic Nerve Pain
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. When it becomes irritated, the result is sciatic nerve pain. This is the basis of all types of sciatica, whether due to a sedentary lifestyle, an active lifestyle or a condition such as diabetes or pregnancy. An irritated or stretched sciatic nerve radiates pain, often down the leg.
- Piriformis Syndrome
Piriformis syndrome is a rare type of sciatica. When the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock, is the structure that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, the pain and other symptoms that result are collectively called piriformis syndrome.
Like the other forms of sciatica, piriformis syndrome is characterized by pain, tingling and/or numbness in the buttock and sometimes down the leg. Unlike the other types, however, determining that piriformis syndrome is at the root of symptoms requires the doctor to first rule out all possible causes. This makes diagnosing it a controversial topic in the medical world.
Generally piriformis syndrome is treated with physical therapy, especially stretching the piriformis muscle. Surgery is rare.