Sciatica Pain Runs From the Lower Back Down Through the Leg

Sciatica is a painful condition where pain will radiate down your sciatic nerve, which is located at your lower back. The pain will typically travel down through your buttocks and hips and then pass through your legs. Most sciatica sufferers will only have one side of their body affected. Luckily, sciatic episodes resolve for most patients in a few weeks. This is because most pinched nerves heal on their own, and sciatica tends to be caused by nerve damage to that area.

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Sciatica is a common condition, striking randomly. Symptom severity ranges from person to person, but nobody describes their experience with sciatica as particularly pleasant. Since the condition tends to resolve on its own, many of the treatments are focused on palliative care for the pain.

Causes of Sciatica

When someone has a herniated disc in their lower back, it puts them at greater risk for pinching their sciatic nerve. Some people develop sciatica because of a bone spur somewhere along their vertebrae, which causes the discs to compress onto the nerve. There are also some patients who develop sciatica due to tissue degeneration and joint dysfunction, which tend to be the result of disease or repetitive use injury. Diabetes and tumors can also cause sciatic pain, but this is much less common. Risk factors for developing sciatica include:

  • Physically laborious jobs
  • Advanced age
  • Being obese
  • Sitting for too long
  • Diabetes related nerve damage
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Being tall
  • Deficiency in Vitamin B12
  • Family history

How the Pain Presents

Like any condition, sciatica has a range of symptoms and severity based on a variety of different factors. Some patients experience intense, unbearable pain in their lower back, while some only have a mild, dull ache. Some patients may even feel a burning sensation in their hips or buttocks. If your legs are affected by sciatica, you could even feel numbness or tingling in different parts of the legs. Weakness or heaviness in the feet or legs may also be experienced. Many patients find that standing up can also irritate their sciatic nerve. Patient symptoms usually worsen when they cough or sit for a long period of time. In severe cases, sciatica can cause a patient to have trouble controlling their bladder or bowels. For these patients, a surgical option will typically have to be taken.

Treating Sciatica

If you have mild sciatica symptoms, there are steps that you can take at home to make yourself feel better. A hot or cold compress can relieve lower back symptoms for some. There are a wide variety of medications that can be taken that attempt to reduce pain, handle inflammation and relax muscles. 

If your pinched sciatic nerve was caused by an injury, many doctors will suggest you go to physical therapy to control your symptoms. They can show you exercise to prevent injuries in the future and to control any discomfort you are currently experiencing. Chiropractic care, acupuncture, and stretching at home can also help control sciatic nerve pain.