Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
1 July 2022

Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition that causes pain along the sciatic nerve’s path. It runs from the lower back down through the hips, buttocks, and down each leg. Sciatica usually affects one side of the body.

Sciatica is most often caused by a herniated disc, bone spurs on the spine, narrowing of the spine (spinalstenosis), or compression of part of the nerve. This can cause inflammation, pain, and sometimes some numbness in the affected legs.

Sciatica pain can be very severe but most cases are resolved with non-operative treatments within a few weeks. Surgery might be an option for severe sciatica that is associated with severe leg weakness, bowel or bladder change, or significant leg weakness.


Check if you have sciatica

Sciatica is characterized by radiating pain that runs from your lower (lumbar), and spine to your buttocks and down your back. The discomfort can be felt anywhere along the nerve pathway. However, it is most likely to radiate from your low back and down your back to your buttocks and back of your calf and thighs.

It can be mild to severe, with a burning sensation, or even excruciating pain. It can sometimes feel like an electric shock or a jolt. You may feel worse if you cough or sneeze. Longer sitting can also exacerbate symptoms. It usually affects one side of the body. People may also experience numbness, weakness, or tingling in their affected feet or legs. One leg may feel painful, while the other might feel numb.

When should you see a doctor?

Mild sciatica is usually temporary. If self-care methods fail to alleviate your symptoms if the pain persists for more than one week, or if it becomes worsening or severe, call your functional medicine doctor or local chiropractor immediately if you experience the following signs:

  • Sudden and severe pain in the lower back or leg is accompanied by numbness in the leg.
  • Pain starts after a violent injury such as a car accident
  • Trouble controlling your bladder or bowels


Sciatica is when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched. This can be caused by a herniated disc in your spine or an overgrowth of bone on your vertebrae. Rarely, the nerve may become compressed by tumors or damaged by diseases like diabetes.

Risk factors

The following are risk factors for sciatica:

  • Age. Sciatica is most commonly caused by age-related changes to the spine such as herniated discs or bone spurs.
  • Obesity. Excessive body weight can cause spinal problems such as sciatica by increasing stress on the spine.
  • Occupation. However, there is no evidence to support the possibility that sciatica could be linked to a job that requires you twist your back, lift heavy objects, or drive a motor car for extended periods of time.
  • Sitting for too long. Sitting for long periods of time or living a sedentary life are more susceptible to developing sciatica.
  • Diabetes. This condition affects how your body uses sugar and increases your risk for nerve damage.


While most people are able to recover from sciatica without lower back treatment, it is possible for permanent nerve damage. If you feel the need for immediate medical attention, please consult your doctor immediately.

  • Feeling loss in the affected leg
  • The affected leg may feel weak
  • Persistent loss of bladder or bowel function


Sciatica can recur. It is not always possible to prevent it. These are key steps to protecting your back.

  • Exercise regularly. For a strong back, you should pay attention to your core muscles. These muscles are vital for correct posture and alignment. Ask your doctor for recommendations.
  • Proper posture is important when sitting. A seat that offers good support for the lower back, armrests, and a swivel base is a good choice. To maintain your normal curve, you might place a pillow or roll towel at the bottom of your back. Keep your hips and knees straight.
  • Good body mechanics are important. You can rest your foot on a stool, small box, or stool if you are standing for a long time. Your lower extremities should do the lifting of heavy objects. Straighten your arms and move up and down. Maintain a straight back and bend at the knees. Keep the load close to you. Do not lift and twist simultaneously. If the object is awkward or heavy, find a partner to lift it.

How to stop sciatica from coming back

What You Should Do

  • stay active and take regular exercise
  • use a safe technique when lifting heavy objects
  • make sure you have a good posture when standing and walking
  • sit correctly when using a computer or sitting for a long period of time
  • lose weight if you’re overweight

What Not to Do

  • Smoke – smoking can increase your risk of getting sciatica

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