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Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Did you know that sciatica can affect up to 40% of adults at some point in their life?1 Navigating sciatica can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Educating yourself about the causes, symptoms, and treatments available is the first step towards relieving your pain.

Sciatica is not a diagnosable condition, instead, it is a symptom of an underlying issue relating to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve extends out from the spine and runs down the lower back, through the buttocks, and into your leg. Although the sciatic nerve runs down either side of the body, only one side is typically affected with sciatica. Sciatica occurs when this nerve is compressed or irritated, causing pain and discomfort.


There are a variety of conditions that can contribute to sciatica including:

  • Herniated Disk: Spinal disks are situated between each vertebra of your spine. These disks can slip out of place, pressing into the sciatic nerve and causing pain.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Those suffering from spinal stenosis experience a narrowing of the space surrounding the spinal cord. This narrowing will not only irritate the spinal cord but also spinal nerves such as the sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This occurs when a vertebra in your spine slips out of place. When this occurs near the sciatic nerve, it can compress it causing pain.
  • Bone Spurs: Osteoarthritis can cause the degeneration of your spinal disks, causing your vertebrae to form bone spurs. These vertebral projections can irritate the sciatic nerve causing sciatica.
  • Spinal Tumor: Although spinal tumors are rare, they are still a cause of sciatica. If the tumor is close to the sciatic nerve, as it grows it will continuously press on the nerve and contribute to sciatica.


There are various signs and symptoms associated with sciatica to look for including:

  • Pain: Sciatica pain is observed in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, typically on one side of the body. This pain is usually described as a burning or shocking sensation that worsens when coughing, sneezing, or bending your legs.
  • Numbness: Most patients suffering from sciatica report a numbness or tingling sensation in the lower back, buttocks, and leg.
  • Muscle Weakness: Because the sciatic nerve is compressed with sciatica, the muscles in your lower back, buttocks, and legs may be weakened.
  • Lost Sensitivity: When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, cell signaling becomes much more difficult. Because of this, you may lose the ability to feel sensations in your lower back, buttocks, and legs.
  • Bladder/Bowel Issues: Your sciatic nerve helps to control some of your bladder and bowel functioning. In severe cases of sciatica, when this nerve is constricted, it can impact your bladder and bowels.


Treatment for sciatica will vary depending on the severity of your condition. When sciatica is mild, self-treatment methods can help to alleviate your pain. Try using over-the-counter pain medication as well as hot and cold therapies and stretching where your pain is most prominent. For moderate sciatica pain, you may want to talk to your physician about available treatment options. At this stage, conservative treatments such as prescribed pain medications, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, spinal adjustments, and decompression therapy are often recommended. When your sciatica pain is severe or these conservative options have failed, surgery is often advised. Spinal surgery can work wonders to relieve any pressure on the sciatic nerve as well as your sciatica pain.

Don’t let your sciatica pain take over your life, consider seeking treatment with the expert spine physicians at NewportCare Medical. We are dedicated to helping alleviate your sciatica pain through either conservative or surgical treatment options today!

AUTHOR: The Spine Institute at Newport Care Medical is a leader in comprehensive surgical and non-surgical treatment of the spine. The orthopedic spine surgeons at the Spine Institute at Newport Care located in Newport Beach, California specialize in acute and chronic neck, back, and musculoskeletal injuries.


  • American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • National Association of Secretaries of State
  • American Podiatric Medical Association