What is Sciatica?

Pain radiates through the entire body

Sciatica is a condition that is associated with pain and other symptoms caused by sciatic nerve compression. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower region of the back and runs to your buttocks and down the back of both of your legs.

Sciatica isn’t actually a condition, but rather a term used to describe symptoms that are caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. For this reason, sciatic nerve pain generally indicates there is an underlying problem in the area that is compressing the nerve.

Common conditions that can develop in the lower back that lead to nerve pain and other sciatica symptoms include:

  • Bulging Disc
  • Herniated Disc
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Scar Tissue
  • Spinal Bone Spurs

Fortunately, sciatica typically responds well to non-surgical treatments. If diagnosed and treated early, sciatica symptoms generally go away within a couple of months of treatment.

doctors note

Note From Dr. Liu:

Seek immediate medical attention if you have any symptoms of progressive lower extremity weakness and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.

view of a healthy lumbar spinal canal
Figure 1a. Healthy spinal canal around the sciatic nerve.
lumbar narrowing causing sciatica
Figure 1b. Spinal stenosis causing sciatic nerve pain.

Sciatica can be quite debilitating. Sciatic nerve pain is often felt primarily on one side of the body and can make sitting, standing, and walking difficult. People with sciatica often feel radiating pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, or even difficulty moving a leg or foot after prolonged sitting.