Sciatica is the sensation of pain along the sciatic nerve, which runs through the lower back, buttocks and down each leg. Most patients who experience sciatica only have pain on one side of their body.
Overview and Symptoms
Sciatica can occur with impingement or inflammation at different points along the sciatic nerve, but often occurs in the lower spine due to arthritis and/or a herniated disc.
Common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Radiating pain in the lumbar region of the back, along the back of the legs, buttocks or hip area
- Electric shock sensation
- Increased pain when sneezing or coughing
- Numbness or tingling in one leg or foot
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have experienced ruptured spinal discs, arthritis, or any degenerative bone diseases in the past, you are at a higher risk of sciatica. Older patients or patients who have recently been in traumatic events such as a car accident are also at a higher risk of developing sciatica. Sciatica is often a symptom of lumbar radiculopathy due to a ruptured spinal disc; however bone spurs and other incidents and conditions can also cause sciatica.
Some forms of mild sciatica go away on their own over time, while more severe cases may require medications, physical therapy, or even interventions such as an injection or surgery. The cause of a patient’s sciatica plays a large role in determining treatment. You should see a doctor for this pain if it lasts longer than a couple weeks despite self-care measures or if your symptoms worsen over time.
You should seek immediate medical attention if your back pain and sciatica started after a major motor vehicle accident, if you have sudden severe back pain with numbness or weakness in the leg, or if you have trouble controlling your bladder or bowels with this new back pain.