Recognizing the Symptoms of Sciatica

Rahul Sood, D.O.

One of the most common and most misunderstood types of pain, sciatica affects up to 40% of men and women, and the symptoms strike more often as you get older. Sciatica pain is often hard to differentiate from other types of back pain, but its symptoms originate in your sciatic nerves — the two largest nerves in your body. 

Sciatica pain can vary greatly from person to person and episode to episode, making it even more confusing when it comes to getting effective pain relief.

Our team of highly skilled pain management physicians at Metro Pain Centers, with convenient locations in New Jersey and New York, can expertly diagnose and treat both the underlying causes and the symptoms of sciatica, so you get long-term relief. 

It helps to be able to recognize the symptoms of sciatica so you can manage your pain at home, too. Here’s what to look for. 

It all begins with the sciatic nerve

You have two sciatic nerves — one on each side of your body — that begin in your lower back and travel through your hips, buttocks, and down each leg. Most of the time, you only experience sciatica pain on one side of your body at a time. 

Sciatica most often occurs when you have a herniated discspinal stenosis — a narrowing of the spinal canal — or a bone spur on your spine. You may also experience sciatica after an injury. 

Each of these conditions puts pressure on your sciatic nerve, compressing it so you feel discomfort or even severe pain on the affected side of your body. Because the sciatic nerve runs from your lower back all the way to your foot, you may experience symptoms anywhere along the nerve. This is one of the reasons sciatica is often mistaken for another type of pain or condition. 

Symptoms that indicate sciatica

Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis, but rather a term that refers to the set of symptoms associated with sciatic nerve compression. 

Any one or more of the following symptoms may signal sciatica:

  • Burning, tingling sensation in your low back, leg, calf, or foot
  • Sharp pain in your buttock on one side
  • Hip pain or burning
  • Sharp, shooting pains anywhere along the sciatic nerve pathway
  • Numbness in one part of your leg
  • Weakness in your foot
  • Dull, aching pain
  • Electric shock-like pain
  • Difficulty walking or standing
  • Trouble finding a comfortable sleeping position

As you can see, symptoms vary quite a bit, and it’s not uncommon to feel several symptoms at the same time. For example, you may have a sharp, burning sensation in your hip and a dull ache in your calf at the same time, in the same leg. Or, you may find it uncomfortable to sit for long periods of time because of pressure in your buttock. 

Expert treatment for sciatica

If you’re lucky, sciatica symptoms go away by themselves after a few days. But for many men and women, sciatica lingers and feels worse on some days and slightly better on others. While there’s no cure for sciatica, the team at Metro Pain Centers diagnoses the underlying causes of your discomfort and treats them accordingly with conservative, noninvasive methods at first. 

Physical therapy and exercises that strengthen your muscles and alleviate pressure on your sciatic nerve are often helpful in keeping symptoms at bay. Over-the-counter pain medications can help reduce inflammation and pain. 

Taking frequent breaks to stretch, especially if you sit at a desk or in a car all day, may help make pain more manageable. Becoming more active throughout the day may relieve pressure on your sciatic nerve. You can also apply hot or cold packs to the affected areas. 

If more conservative measures don’t provide long-term relief, your doctor may recommend steroid injections, prescription anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants. 

You don’t have to live with sciatica pain that interrupts your daily activities or makes it hard for you to be as mobile as you’d like. For expert diagnosis and care for your sciatica symptoms, call the Metro Pain Centers office nearest you or request an appointment through our convenient online system today.

Rahul Sood, D.O.

Rahul Sood, D.O.

About Rahul Sood, D.O.

As a board-certified anesthesiologist and doctor of osteopathy, Rahul Sood, DO, is an integral part of the team at Metro Pain Centers. He is also a specialist in venous medicine with an extensive history and experience in treating lower extremity spider and varicose veins. He practices from the offices in Clifton, Middletown, Riverdale, Edison, and Jersey City, New Jersey; and Staten Island and Ardsley, New York.

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