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The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and runs from your lower back down through your buttocks to each of your legs and feet. Sciatica is the broad term used to describe the painful symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated.

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How Do I Know If I Have Sciatica?

Sciatica affects up to 40% of the population and can range in severity from a dull ache to debilitating pain that makes it difficult to walk and stand. 

While Sciatic nerve pain typically only occurs in one side of your body and is dependent on where the compression is located. It is important to note that sciatica or sciatic nerve pain is the result of nearby spine issues such as herniated discs and arthritis.

Common Symptoms of Sciatica

Symptoms of sciatica traditionally affect a single side of the lower body in the form of: 

  • Pain described as sharp, throbbing, and stinging sensations.
  • Weakness in the lower limbs.
  • Numbness often throughout the buttock, leg, and foot.
  • Discomfort in common positions such as sitting or lying down.

Common Causes of Sciatica

The severity of sciatica symptoms vary depending on the underlying condition but tend to manifest in the lower back, buttock, thigh, calf, or feet. The most common conditions that can lead to sciatica are: 

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: As discs age and undergo degeneration, the accompanying abnormal anatomy can irritate nearby nerves, including the sciatic.
  • Herniated Discs: Pressure built up from the leak of inner-liquid from a disc into the spinal canal can cause sciatic nerve pain. 
  • Piriformis Syndrome: Because it is so close to the piriformis muscle (in the buttocks), the sciatic nerve can inadvertently become compressed during muscle contraction.
  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: Strain and improper movement associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction lead to sciatic nerve irritation and compression. 
  • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal places pressure on the spinal cord leading to the sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis: When vertebrae slip, they can compress nearby nerves causing sciatica.

Are you experiencing the single-sided, lower body pain that indicates sciatica or sciatic nerve pain?  A spine specialist can get to the root of your sciatica. Start your diagnosis with our confidential interactive condition check tool.

How is Sciatica Treated?

Your sciatica treatment options are subject to the underlying condition that is causing the sciatic nerve issue. As with all spine related problems, the quicker you take action to seek a diagnosis and treatment, the better your overall recovery will be.  Finding the root cause of sciatic nerve pain is the top priority in determining what treatments are a fit for you. Because sciatica is a symptom, treating the underlying condition will typically resolve the sciatic nerve pain.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Sciatica

In some cases, sciatica can be resolved with at-home remedies such as: 

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Heat and ice therapy
  • Stretching and low impact activities such as walking

A spine specialist can also provide cortisone injections to alleviate the pain and inflammation as you work through at-home treatments.

Surgical Treatments for Sciatica

When non-surgical treatments have been exhausted, surgery may be required to correct the underlying condition and relieve your pain. Depending on the underlying condition, your surgical treatment options for sciatica can vary.

The most common include laminoforaminotomy, typically associated with herniated disc and spinal stenosis conditions, and microdiscectomy, often used for degenerative disc disease. 

Additional surgical treatments for sciatica include: 

  • Endoscopic Discectomy
  • Percutaneous Discectomy
  • Axial Fusion
  • Endoscopic Foraminotomy
  • Interlaminar Spacer
  • Microdiscectomy
  • TLIF (Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion)

If you are suffering from sciatica symptoms and are ready to take the next step, try our interactive treatment finder below to find right treatment for you.




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