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Most cases of sciatica occur between the ages of 30 and 50. *
*Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Sciatica Overview

Sciatica  refers to a variety of symptoms including leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness originating in the lower back and moving through the buttocks to the back of the thigh and into the leg. The pain usually occurs because a herniated disk in the spine is pinching the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and is made up of various roots that branch out from the spine in the lower back and down the back of each leg.



WellStar neurologists and neurosurgeons are expert in treating sciatica, including complex cases that may affect other organs and functions.

The impact of sciatica can range from irritating to incapacitating. Sciatica will sometimes heal on its own with sufficient time and rest. In other cases, an injection or surgery may be recommended.

Other causes include:
  • Slipped disk
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Tumors
  • A nerve damaged by diabetes

Sometimes a herniated or bulging disk will press on nerves that affect bladder and bowel control. This is typically accompanied by numbness or tingling in the groin or genital area. If you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms you should contact your WellStar neurologist immediately, as surgery may be required.

Symptoms

Symptoms of sciatica vary according to where the nerve is being pinched. For example an L5 nerve problem (L5 refers to a particular lumbar disk) can result in pain and difficulty extending the big toe and moving the ankle.

Among symptoms of sciatica:


  • Constant pain in one side of the buttock or leg
  • Pain that makes it hard to stand or walk
  • A sharp, cramp-like feeling in the leg
  • Mild tingling down the leg
  • Dull ache
  • Burning sensation
  • Sharp pain in one part of the leg or hip and numbness elsewhere
  • Pain that worsens after standing or sitting, at night, when sneezing/coughing/laughing, when bending backward or when walking more than a few yards

Risk Factors

Factors including the following can increase the chance for sciatica:


  • Age. The disks that make up the spine begin to deteriorate and thin by age 30. With increasing age the disks lose moisture and shrink, which can also contribute to sciatica
  • Certain occupations. Jobs that require lifting, bending, twisting and vibration (such as long-haul trucking)
  • Prior problems. Certain low back conditions and injuries in childhood
  • Psychological problems. Some researchers believe that depression, emotional distress and job dissatisfaction contribute to physical problems including sciatica
  • Pregnancy. The shifting of organs and redistribution of body weight may increase the chance of sciatica in pregnant women
  • Obesity. Extra weight puts additional stress on the spine
  • Excessive sitting. People who sit a great deal are more likely to develop sciatica than others
  • Diabetes. The risk of nerve damage is increased with diabetes, which affects the body’s use of blood sugar

Related Information

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