What is Sciatica?

When sciatic nerve or its nerve components are irritated or compressed leading to pain in the back and lower leg, it is called Sciatica. Sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in our body which arises from the spinal cord at lower lumbar area and runs in the buttock area and behind the posterior thigh. In sciatica, the pain usually starts from our low back and radiates along the buttock, posterior thigh up to leg and foot. The pain can be severe with typical neuropathic characters like stabbing, tingling, burning, pins needles and can be pulling type also.

Why sciatica happens?

The commonest cause of sciatica is herniation of disc (jelly like substance between each spinal bones) also known as slip disc which usually herniates backward thus compressing either the spinal cord or the nerve roots that come out of the spinal cord .

sciatica in spinal cord

Herniation of disc can occur from various reasons including genetic cause leading to early disc degeneration, sudden jerking activity, heavy weight bearing or repeated stress and strain on spine from various reasons.

How common is sciatica?

Sciatica is one of the commonest cause of back and leg pain and is the leading cause of chronic back pain and disability. Other causes which can mimic sciatica is compression of sciatic nerve at buttock from compression by piriformis or other gluteal muscles known as “pseudo-sciatica”.

Treatment of sciatica

Sciatica from disc herniation is usually managed conservatively. That means medication, posture care, physiotherapy, back strengthening exercise and spine intervention or injections like epidural corticosteroid injection helps a vast majority of patients and surgery is needed in resistant cases or patients with severe canal stenosis, high grade listhesis and cauda equine syndrome.