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Sciatica (cont.)

What Are Sciatica Risk Factors?

  • Age-related changes in the spine, such as arthritis and degenerating discs, are a risk factor for sciatica.
  • Obesity: Excess weight, especially in the abdomen, increases the stress on the spine.
  • Prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for sciatica and other back problems.

What Are Symptoms of Sciatica?

The most common symptom from sciatica is pain. Most people describe a deep, severe pain that starts low on one side of the back and then shoots down the buttock and the back of the thigh with certain movements. The medical term for nerve pain caused by a pinched nerve in the spine is radiculopathy. Sciatica can also cause knee pain, hip pain, and foot pain. Often there is muscle spasm in the low back or leg, as well.

  • Sciatica pain is usually worse with both prolonged sitting and standing. Frequently, the pain is made worse by standing from a low sitting position, such as standing up after sitting on a toilet seat.
  • In most people, sciatic pain is made worse by sneezing, coughing, laughing, or a hard bowel movement. Bending backward can also make the pain worse.
  • People may also notice a weakness in their leg or foot, along with the pain. The weakness may become so bad they can't move their foot.

When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Sciatica?

Call a doctor if any of the following conditions occur:

  • The pain is not improving after several days or seems to be getting worse.
  • If the affected person is younger than 20 years of age or older than 55 years of age and is having sciatica for the first time
  • The affected individual presently has cancer or has a history of cancer.
  • The affected individual has lost a large amount of weight recently or has unexplained chills and fever with back pain.
  • The affected individual is HIV positive or uses IV drugs.
  • Someone has trouble bending forward after more than a week or two.
  • The affected individual notices weakness is getting more pronounced over time.

Go to a hospital's emergency department if any of the following occur along with sciatica.

  • The pain is unbearable, despite trying first aid methods.
  • The pain follows a violent injury, such as a fall from a ladder or an automobile crash.
  • The pain is in the back of the chest.
  • The affected individual is unable to move or feel his or her legs or feet.
  • The affected individual loses control of his or her bowels or bladder or has numbness in his or her genitals. These may be symptoms of cauda equina syndrome (a serious nervous system condition caused by damage to the nerves at the end of the spinal canal).
  • The affected individual has a high temperature (over 101 F).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2017

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