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Sciatica: Introduction

Sciatica is a common group of symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve is compressed, injured, and/or inflamed. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and branches out from the spinal cord in the lower back through both buttocks and legs. The sciatic nerve and its branches are responsible for movement and feeling in the legs and feet.

Compression, injury or inflammation of the sciatic nerve results in symptoms that typically include intense pain anywhere along the nerve path through the legs and feet. Weakness and numbness can also occur. Sciatica may also result in complications. For additional symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of sciatica.

Sciatica frequently occurs due to a bulging or herniated disc in the spine, which can pinch the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can also occur due to trauma to the spine, osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, pregnancy, or rarely, a spinal tumor.

Sciatica is often diagnosed and treated by a spine specialist or a chiropractor. Making a diagnosis of sciatica begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms. A physical and neurological examination that focuses on the back and lower extremities is also done and includes an assessment of range of motion of the back and legs. A neurological exam is performed to evaluate the muscles, nerves and nervous system and such functions as reflexes, sensation and pain, movement, balance, and coordination.

Diagnostic testing may include special tests that test the nerves and muscles. These include an electromyogram (EMG), which tests the nerve and electrical activity of muscles, and a nerve conduction velocity test, which identifies how fast nerves conduct electrical impulses. Medical testing may also include tests that can help determine any underlying medical disease or conditions that may be causing sciatica. These include imaging tests that create a picture of the spine, such as spinal X-ray, CT and/or MRI.

It is possible that a diagnosis of sciatica can be missed or delayed because symptoms may be mild or similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information about diseases and disorders that can mimic sciatica, refer to misdiagnosis of sciatica.

Treatment for sciatica varies depending on the severity of symptoms, the presence of complications, a person's age and medical history, and the type of work and activities a person does. Treatment can reduce or eliminate symptoms and complications. Treatment options include chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, exercises, medication, alternative therapies, and possibly surgery. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of sciatica. ...more »

Sciatica: Sciatica is a painful condition caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, the main nerve that branches off the spinal cord and continues down into the ... more about Sciatica.

Sciatica: Sciatica is a set of symptoms including pain that may be caused by general compression and/or irritation of one of five nerve roots that give rise to the sciatic nerve, or by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve itself. More detailed information about the symptoms, causes, and treatments of Sciatica is available below.

Sciatica: Symptoms

The types and severity of symptoms of sciatica vary between individuals. Symptoms may include abnormal sensations, pain, weakness, burning, numbness and tingling of any areas of the legs or feet covered by the sciatic nerve. Pain may shoot from the back all the way down the leg into the foot. This type of pain may be described as shooting down the back of the leg. Pain may also ...more symptoms »

Sciatica: Treatments

With early recognition and treatment, in many cases it is possible to reverse the symptoms of sciatica. The most successful treatment and prevention plans use a multipronged approach individualized to the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, a person's medical history, general health and other factors.

The first step in treatment is prevention. This includes using good body ...more treatments »

Sciatica: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of sciatica may be delayed or missed because symptoms, such as leg weakness, pain and tingling may be mild, develop slowly, and can differ greatly from person to person. In addition, symptoms of sciatica can be similar to or accompany symptoms of other conditions and diseases. These include herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and peripheral ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Sciatica

Treatments for Sciatica

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Sciatica:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Sciatica?

Sciatica: Related Patient Stories

Alternative Treatments for Sciatica

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Sciatica may include:

  • Sleep on your stomach
  • Chiropractic medicine
  • Rest
  • Correct posture while sitting, standing, driving
  • Core strengthening exercise
  • more treatments »

Sciatica: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Sciatica:

Causes of Sciatica

More information about causes of Sciatica:

Disease Topics Related To Sciatica

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Sciatica:

Sciatica: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Sciatica

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Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple more »

Sciatica: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Sciatica: Animations

Prognosis for Sciatica

Prognosis for Sciatica: Most people (80-90%) fully recover from sciatica without surgery. In most cases the nerve is not permanently damaged, and individuals recover in the 3-week to 3-month time frame.

Research about Sciatica

Visit our research pages for current research about Sciatica treatments.

Clinical Trials for Sciatica

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Sciatica include:

Sciatica: Broader Related Topics

Sciatica Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Sciatica, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Sciatica

Sciatica is a painful condition caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, the main nerve that branches off the spinal cord and continues down into the thighs, legs, ankles, and feet. Sciatica is characterized by pain in the buttocks and can be caused by a number of factors. Exertion, obesity, and poor posture can all cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. One common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc (see Spine Basics in the Appendix). (Source: excerpt from Pain -- Hope Through Research: NINDS)

Definitions of Sciatica:

Neuralgia along the sciatic nerve - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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