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Sciatica definition

Sciatica is a term that describes pain, numbness or weakness that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the buttocks and leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body. Another term that refers to sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy.

What can cause Sciatica?

Causes of sciatica include:

Lumbar herniated disc. It occurs when a disc’s material leaks out and irritates or compresses the contiguous nerve root.

Degenerative processes in lumbar discs. Our discs do age but when it is degenerative, the nerve roots are irritated by inflammatory proteins and weakens the disc.

Isthmic spondylolisthesis. This happens when the bone that forms the front of a vertebrae moves onto the one below. This happens because of a small break in a piece of a bone that connects the two joints on the back side of the spinal segment. As a result, the nerve root is pinched and causes pain.

Lumbar spinal stenosis. This happens when the spinal canal narrows and the nerves are pressed, causing sciatica symptoms.

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Sacroiliac joint inflammation can also irritate nerves, which lies on top of the sacroiliac joint, leading to sciatica-type pain. Although this is not a pinched nerve, it can feel like sciatica.


Sciatica pain can range in its severity, depending on a degree of nerve roots irritation. Usually, the painful feelings in the leg are considerably worse than pain in the low back. Often, Sciatica symptoms are described as searing or burning pain and even as electrical shocks running down the leg. Combination of the following symptoms is most common:

  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg, that continues along the path of the sciatic nerve (down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg and foot).
  • Pain that worsens when a patient is standing or sitting.
  • A so-called “pins-and-needles” sensation and numbness in the leg.
  • Pain or numbness in the toes.
  • Lower back pain (but not more severe as leg pain)


Sciatica is just a symptom that can be caused by various diseases. Therefore, treatment or correction of primary condition or abnormality, which irritates nerve roots and leads to sciatica, is necessary.

These treatment options may include surgery, anti-inflammatory drugs, oral steroids or epidural steroid injections. In some cases, physical therapy and exercises may be helpful.

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