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Sciatica

Sciatica Facts

Sciatica (pronounced sigh-AT-ih-ka) is low back pain combined with a pain radiating through the buttock and down one leg. The leg pain often goes past the knee and may go to the foot. Weakness in the leg muscles and limping can be a sign of sciatica.

  • The sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in the body and are about the size of the little finger. They come out of the spinal column low in the back and then go behind the hip joint, down the buttock, and down the back of the leg to the foot.
  • Sciatica is different from other forms of low back pain because while the pain most often begins in the back, it usually travels down one lower extremity.
  • The pain is usually a shooting pain, like electricity. It can also burn like fire or tingle much like the feeling when one's leg "goes to sleep." The pain can range from slightly annoying to unbearable. Some people have pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another part of the same leg.
Picture of a herniated lumbar disc
Picture of a herniated lumbar disc
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/17/2016

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Sciatica Treatment

Sciatica is pain resulting from irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica pain is typically felt from the low back to behind the thigh and radiating down below the knee. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and begins from nerve roots in the lumbar spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttock area to send nerve endings down the lower limb.

However, some people only experience pain or numbness in the calf of the leg, or in the foot, while the source of the problem is actually located in the low back. This is because sciatica is most commonly a result of a lumbar (low back) disc herniation directly pressing on the sciatic nerve. Moreover, any cause of irritation or inflammation of this nerve as it comes out of the spine in the low back can reproduce the symptoms of sciatica.


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