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Understanding Sciatica, What Is It?

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Sciatica is defined as pain in the sciatic nerve that is persistent. The sciatic nerve travels from the bottom back to the buttock and the lower part of the leg. The nerve is the longest in the body. If the nerve is squeezed or damaged, pain occurs. That is most often due to infection, inflammation, arthritis, or a displaced disc in the lower spine.

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica causes pain that travels through the buttock, lower leg, calf, and, sometimes, the foot. In general, the discomfort feels dull, sore, or burning. Often, throughout the night, it begins gradually, worsens, and is exacerbated by movement. Sciatica may also induce tingling, numbness, or stiffness in the affected leg muscles.


Your primary care provider will review your signs and medical records. If you have low back pain that extends to the lower leg, and if you have muscle fatigue in your leg or foot, he or she may want to know. Often, the doctor will ask questions that might indicate a medical injury, such as a bone fracture or inflammation. He or she needs to know if you had:

- When did it start?

- How bad is it?

- What does it feel like? Electrical pain, cramping, pressure...

- Does it radiate to any part of the leg? if so, how far down?

- Is there any tingling?

- Is there any numbness?

- Is there any weakness?

You will be checked by the doctor, with careful attention to the back and legs. Your doctor may ask you to conduct a series of tests to check your muscle control, reflexes, and flexibility and look for problems in your spinal column and associated nerves.

The diagnosis is mainly based on the signs you encounter. It is important to look for fatigue and sensation loss in the leg for a physical exam.  However, in people with sciatica, regular physical testing is common. In certain cases, monitoring may be necessary, but the diagnosis may be made even though all test findings are normal.

You can be advised for X-rays, CT scan, or a magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI) scan from your doctor. These tests screen for problems that can irritate or pinch the sciatic nerve inside the spinal vertebrae (backbones). These assessments are the most effective to rule out other causes and complications or to suggest surgical alternatives.

Expected Duration

Sciatica typically goes away itself out after a time of rest and minimal movement. Within 6 weeks, the majority of patients with sciatica feel better. Pain that lasts more than 6 to 12 weeks should cause the doctor to make a follow-up appointment. You may also be recommended to a doctor who specializes in treating back pain, whether the symptoms are serious or persistent.


Sciatica can typically be successfully managed by a short period of resting and controlling movement. Stop extended bed rest that can worsen sciatica. Start soft mobility exercises to stabilize the back as soon as possible. If you are not improving, contact the doctor. Physical examination may be useful. Your doctor may prescribe you using hot and cold compresses to alleviate the inflammation around the nerve.

You will also need to take acetaminophen for discomfort or for anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or pain and anxiety medication. It may be helpful to use drugs to relieve chronic nerve pain. That include amitriptyline or Neurontin.

An injection of a long-acting anesthetic with a steroid drug will offer relief in extreme cases. These injections are usually performed in pain treatment clinics. Some non-medication solutions can be effective, including chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, massage, and meditation, but it is unclear how favorably they relate to more traditional therapy.

Other than usual medications, the sciatica can completely be treated with chiropectic approach. In this procedure, a chiropector makes adjustment of the effected vertebra to get relieve the pressure on the nerve causing sciatica pain.

Rarely, surgery is necessary, for example, when a bulging disc induces sciatica.


· “Sciatica - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic.  , 2020. Web. 20 Sept. 2020.

· ‌ “What Is Sciatica?” WebMD. WebMD, 30 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 Sept. 2020.

· ‌Shiel, W. C. (2020, March 10). Sciatica Nerve Pain. MedicineNet; MedicineNet.

· ‌Heitz, D. (2020, May 18). 6 Stretches for Sciatica Pain Relief. Healthline; Healthline Media.