Sciatica is nerve back pain from an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve, which originates in your buttock/gluteal area.
The sciatic nerve is the largest and thickest nerve in the body. It branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg into your foot and toes. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body.
Sciatica is one type of a condition called radiculopathy. Radiculopathy describes a range of symptoms produced by the pinching of a nerve root in the spinal column. When radiculopathy occurs in the lower back, it is known as lumbar radiculopathy, also referred to as sciatica because nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve are often involved.
Sciatica most commonly occurs when a herniated disk, bone spur on the spine, or narrowing of the spine, known as spinal stenosis, compresses part of the nerve. This compression or pinching causes inflammation, pain, and often some numbness in the affected leg.
Although the pain associated with sciatica can be severe, most cases can be resolved with non-operative treatments in a few weeks.
The symptoms of sciatica are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve. They may include:
- Pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to one side of your buttock and down the back of your leg into the foot and toes.
- Pain that is worse after prolonged sitting.
- Pain that varies widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain, and sometimes like a jolt or electric shock.
- Numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or difficulty moving the affected leg, foot, or toes
- Pain that gets worse when you cough or sneeze.