Diseases & Conditions


SciaticaCausesDiagnosisHome RemediesRisk FactorsSymptomsTestsTreatment

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is the pain that arises from the irritation of the sciatic nerve and spreads along its branches that run along the back, through the buttock area down the backside of each leg.

Causes of Sciatica

The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. However, other causes that can lead to sciatica are:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Spinal tumors
  • Trauma
  • Sciatic nerve tumor or injury
  • Other causes that can affect your bones, joints and muscles

Diagnosis of Sciatica

To diagnose sciatica, your doctor is likely to:

  • Look into your medical history
  • Conduct a thorough physical examination
  • Perform basic muscle tests to check the strength and reflexes of your muscles. Pain during these tests can reveal the presence of sciatica.

Home Remedies for Sciatica

Home remedies for sciatica have been found to be exceptionally useful and effective. In many cases, these home remedies are sufficient treatment and there is no further need for medical assistance. Some of the most popular home remedies for sciatica include:

  • Cold packs: In the initial stage, using cold packs may be able to reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort.
  • Hot Packs: After a few days, it helps to apply heat to the inflamed area, either with a heating pad or a heating lamp.
  • Alternating cold and hot packs: After the first few days, alternating cold and hot packs brings continued comfort and pain relief.
  • Stretching: Stretching your lower back can help relieve nerve root compression and bring relief.

Risk Factors of Sciatica

Some of the major risk factors of sciatica include:

  • Ageing: Age related spine and spinal disc problems can lead to sciatica.
  • Occupation: Jobs that strain the back and the spine like heavy lifting, prolonged driving, etc. can cause sciatica.
  • Prolonged Sitting: Jobs that require prolonged sitting or a sedentary lifestyle can lead to sciatica.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes causes nerve damage and can cause sciatica if it affects the sciatic nerve.
  • Heredity: If you have a family history of sciatica, your risk factor is likely to be increased.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that spreads from the lower spine to the buttock area and then downwards from the backside of each leg. It is possible for the pain to vary from person to person and time to time. It can be a minor ache or a sharp pain that causes burning-like sensation or debilitating discomfort. It may feel like an electric jolt. It is likely that it could feel aggravated when you are coughing or sneezing, and sitting for extended periods of time may aggravate the symptoms. Typically only one leg is affected.

However, there are some other symptoms of sciatica that include:

  • Feeling of numbness or weakness of muscles along the same path where you experience pain
  • Pins-and-needles sensation or a tingling feeling, typically in toes or other parts of the foot
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Tests for Sciatica

To confirm the diagnosis of sciatica and rule out other causes for lower back pain, your doctor may order one or more imaging tests. These tests are likely to include:

  • Spinal X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan

Treatment for Sciatica

There are many options when it comes to treating sciatica. These treatment options include:

  • Physical therapy: If sciatica is caused by a herniated disc, this option may be particularly useful, especially if it includes a rehabilitation program.
  • Prescription drugs: These are likely to include anti inflammatory medication, muscle relaxants as well as pain relief medication.
  • Epidural steroid injections: These suppress inflammation around the irritated nerve, thereby helping to relieve pain
  • Surgery: Surgical options include diskectomy and microdiskectomy