The Basics of Sciatica


Sciatica is caused by damage or injury to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica isn’t a condition in itself, but encompasses a number of symptoms. The sciatic nerve is responsible for the legs, feet, and buttocks, and any problem with it can lead to irregular sensations and pain.


As mentioned, sciatica itself is a group of symptoms. These include tingling sensations, moderate to extreme pain, and burning sensations, in the area where the sciatic nerve passes. You might experience significant discomfort when moving your legs or when sitting as the pressure on your legs and buttocks increases. The pain may spread to other parts of your lower body.


There are numerous causes of sciatica. The most common cause is a herniated or slipped disc. Other causes include:

  • A tumor in the affected area (perhaps the rarest cause)
  • Piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle puts pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Malfunctioning of the nervous system
  • Injury to the lower back or buttocks

The initial damage to the sciatic nerve can be caused by an injury to its fibers. The injury may occur in the pelvis, in the spinal canal, or right on the nerve itself.


In the past, a common treatment for sciatica was bed rest, but numerous studies have shown that continuous bed rest can actually do more harm than good. The modern way of treating sciatica is to have the patient be active from the very beginning. Non-surgical treatments that are helpful for this condition include, pain management treatment, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and spinal decompression treatment.

Medication options typically include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as Tylenol to start, along with Valium to relax the muscles. Opoid medications may be useful for the short term acute pain.
  • Medrol Dosepak can also provide considerable pain relief, but it should only be given once every two years as there are some risks involved.
  • Epidural steroid injections, which are given in conjunction with medicines. These injections are usually given in a sequence and may bring complete relief for the patient right after the second or third injection.

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