Symptoms and Signs of Sciatica

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/15/2022

Doctor's Notes on Sciatica

Sciatica refers to a type of nerve pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve starts from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the lower back, then passes through the buttocks, and branches down the lower limbs. Sciatica is most commonly caused by lumbar disc herniation, but any condition that irritates or causes inflammation of the sciatic nerve can lead to symptoms. 

Characteristic signs and symptoms of sciatica include:

  • burning pain that radiates from the lower back and upper buttock down the back of the thigh into the back of the leg,
  • numbness and tingling, and
  • associated symptoms such as hip pain if the pain radiates around the hip or buttock and low back pain

In severe cases, walking may be difficult. Sometimes, symptoms are relieved by lying down.

What Is the Treatment for Sciatica?

Treatment for sciatica depends upon the severity of the condition and may include:

  • Medications, including:
    • Non-prescription and prescription anti-inflammatory medications
    • Prescription pain reliever medications
    • Muscle relaxants
    • Anti-seizure medications or tricyclic antidepressants, both of which are known to relieve nerve pain
  • Corticosteroid injections into the area around the affected nerve root in the back
  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles
  • Surgery, for more severe cases

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.