What Is Sciatica? What Are Its Causes, Symptoms And Treatments?

Sciatica is a very common medical problem most patients visit orthopedic surgeons for. Let’s discuss what sciatica really is, the causes, symptoms and management options.


It refers to pain along the path of the sciatic nerve. The pain is typically severe and acute in onset, radiates through the buttocks and thighs all the way down to your legs. It typically involves only one side of the body.

Sciatica occurs when there is some hindrance across the path of the nerve, whether its due to spinal compression, a herniated vertebral disc or a bony spur compressing the nerve roots altogether.

This can lead to severe pain affecting only one side of the body, local signs of inflammation such as redness and swelling may be evident. There may be associated numbness in the legs occasionally.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Symptoms are quite typical and can lead to a spot diagnosis. Usually severe onset pain that radiates down the lumbar spine and across the back of your legs is the diagnostic feature of sciatica. You can typically feel signs of discomfort and numbness virtually anywhere across the path of distribution of the nerve.

The pain can vary in character, it is usually mild to severe in intensity, patients usually describe the pain as a sudden electric jolt, tingling sensation or a sharp ache across the back of the legs.  Patients can complain of exaggeration of the pain due to coughing, sneezing or sitting in a specific posture.

Causes of Sciatica

Causes can vary widely from person to person. Usually a herniated disc or a compression of the nerve by a bony spur can lead to sciatica onset. Rare causes of sciatica include compression by a tumor or degeneration of the nerve due to chronic diabetes.

Risk Factors

Factors that promote the development of sciatica in the general population include:

  1. Age

Age related bone degenerative changes such as bony spurs and herniated vertebral discs are the most common cause of sciatica.

  1. Obesity

Excessive body fat can lead to added stress on the spine that can exacerbate sciatica pain. People who are overweight and pregnant women are at highest risk to develop sciatica.

  1. Occupational Risk

Your profession could increase the likelihood of you developing sciatica later in life. Jobs that require heavy weight lifting, twisting and turning off the spine like factory loaders, or truck drivers are at an increased risk because of trauma to the spine.

  1. Prolonged Sitting

People who tend to sit for longer periods of time, lack of exercise and excessive amounts of sitting bent for hours at the computer screen are more likely to develop the disease.

  1. Diabetes

People who have developed diabetes are more likely to develop sciatica because of the nerve damage associated with the disease.


Complications associated with sciatica can be life threatening, debilitating and require urgent surgical intervention before the damage becomes permanent. We urge you to seek immediate medical attention if you begin to feel weakness and loss of sensation in the affected limb. Bowel and bladder limitations are also dreadful indications of seeing your doctor promptly.

Treatment For Sciatica

Treatment options for sciatica usually don’t involve surgery unless patients present with chronic sciatica associated with the complications discussed above.

  1. Home Remedies for Sciatica

Some management options that you can do within the comforts of your own home include applying hot and ice cold packs and see which provides the most relief.

  1. Medication

Over the counter pain relief medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, known in medical terms as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help in speeding the recovery and reduce the pain symptoms. Sometimes steroid injections may be used to alleviate local signs of inflammation.

  1. Exercising

While recovering, try to maintain an active lifestyle. Try to keep optimum activity levels throughout the day, but be sure to not overdo anything. Practicing yoga and tai chi can help stabilize the core and stabilize the affected area.

  1. Surgery

If the problem is due to a compression in the spinal cord or a herniated vertebral disc, surgery is an option. By opting for surgery, the back pain doctor McLean can remove the disc or the bony spur to help relieve the compression on the nerve and reduce pain levels.

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