What is Sciatica?

The term sciatica actually describes a symptom rather than a specific condition. Sciatica is a set of symptoms including pain caused by general compression or irritation of one of five spinal nerve roots of each sciatic nerve—or by compression or irritation of the left or right or both sciatic nerves.

Typical symptoms include pain in the lower back or buttocks, and numbness, pain, or weakness in the lower body. Other symptoms include a “pins and needles” sensation, or tingling and difficulty moving or controlling the leg. Typically, symptoms only manifest on one side of the body. The pain may radiate above the knee, but does not always.

Sciatica is a relatively common form of lower back and leg pain, but the true meaning of the term is often misunderstood. Sciatica is a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis for what is irritating the root of the nerve to cause the pain. Treatment for sciatica or sciatic symptoms often differs, depending on underlying causes and pain levels. Causes include compression of the sciatic nerve roots by a herniated (torn) or protruding disc in the lower back.

What Causes Sciatica?

The most frequent causes of sciatica are:

Although there are many more possible causes of sciatica, including a trauma or some forms of cancer. Your doctor can asses your pain and develop a treatment plan specific to your needs.