Sciatica Causes & Symptoms

Sciatica Overview Sciatica Causes & Symptoms Sciatica Diagnosis & Treatments

What Causes Sciatic Pain?

The term “sciatica” is often confused with general back pain and usually refers to leg and back pain. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body. It runs from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the legs, ending just below the knee. The sciatic nerve, an extension of the exiting nerve, anatomically runs down both legs connecting to muscle and tendons in your hip, buttock, thigh, knee, calf, and foot. The sciatic nerve controls several muscles in the lower legs and relays sensation to the skin of the lower legs and feet. Some experts estimate that up to 40 percent of people will experience sciatica at least once in their life.

Sciatica is typically caused by a compressed or pinched nerve root in the lower lumbar and lumbar-sacral spine.  Sciatica can be present in one or both legs.  Sciatica, a symptom of nerve pain, is the name given to the pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Irritation of this nerve can cause pain, weakness, and numbness, ranging from mild to severe. Another common term used to describe this pain is radicular pain or radiculitis (nerve root inflammation).  Radicular pain is usually secondary to inflammation or compression of a spinal nerve. This pain is often steady and deep and usually reproduced with certain positions and activities such as sitting or walking. Once a surgeon documents a nerve dysfunction, the condition is called radiculopathy.

Additional common causes of sciatica include:

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
  • Degenerative disc disease (the breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)
  • Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
  • Pregnancy
  • Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks
  • Miscellaneous other things such as being overweight, sleeping on a hard or too soft mattress, wearing high heels, and not exercising regularly.


What Are The Symptoms Associated with Sciatica?

The symptoms generally associated with sciatica occur on one side of your body affecting a leg. However, in severe cases of spinal stenosis, exiting spinal nerves on each side of the spinal cord can be compressed and produce sciatic symptoms in both the legs, leaving patients in chronic debilitating pain. Severe sciatica can make walking very difficult and unbearable. Also, sciatica can be aggravated by walking, running, or bending over and this pain can only be relieved at times by lying down.  Changing positions when suffering from numbness and pain can partially or completely provide some relief.  This sciatic nerve pain can manifest itself with some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Burning
  • Cramping
  • Numbness
  • Tightness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Sharp needle like pain

If you are suffering from sciatic pain and it is impacting your daily routine, work, or general quality of life, we can help you.  At the International Spine Institute, our surgeon Dr. Marco Rodriguez, routinely treats patients suffering from sciatica.  With proper diagnosis and conservative treatment, including physical therapy, many patients get better without surgical intervention. However, when sciatica does not resolve with conservative care, Dr. Rodriguez has had great success treating this painful symptom with least invasive spine surgery.

To see if you are a candidate for least invasive spine surgery, fill out our pain evaluation form, and submit your most recent MRI. Our staff will call you and gladly help you through the process of getting a Free MRI Review.


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