What is Sciatic Leg Pain?

Sciatic leg pain is just another term used to describe sciatica. Sciatic pain is a common condition resulting from sciatic nerve compression or irritation, and usually starts in the lower back through the back of the thigh and down the legs. The foot and the toes may also be involved.

The reason for nerve compression or irritation may be slipped or prolapsed disk, muscle tension (piriformis syndrome) and some less common reasons such as bony growths, tumors and infections.

sciatic leg pain imageOther possible reasons that may associated with sciatic pain are being overweight, wearing high heels, lack of regular exercise, sitting improperly, poor posture, sitting for long periods with pressure points on buttocks and sleeping on a poor mattress conditions.

The main symptoms of sciatic leg pain are pain in the lower back, buttock, thigh, knee and foot. In some cases, pain may be severe and unbearable while in some people, it may be irritating and infrequent, but possibly may worsen over time.

Some common symptoms of sciatic pain are:

  • pain in the leg or rear that may worsen when sitting 
  • tinglingor burning down the leg 
  • numbness and/or weakness in leg 
  • difficulty in moving the foot or leg 
  • shooting pain in the leg 

Sciatic leg pain may range from mild to severe and categorized as acute and chronic.

Acute sciatic pain is generally associated with soft tissue injury such as sprains of muscles, ligaments, or tendons or disc herniation. Acute pain generally cures within several days to weeks and its severity is directly associated with the extent of tissue injury.

Chronic sciatic pain is present all the time and may persist for couple of months and more. Often the chronic nature is related to poor posture, certain activities and improper body mechanics. Other contributing factors may be related to arthritic changes, tissue scarring, nerve cell changes or psychological effects of chronic pain.

The treatment options for sciatica include self-care, physical therapy, stretches and exercises, massage, traction, ultra-sound, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation.

You may get benefit from prescription medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen, ibuprofen), which can relieve pain and inflammation. Steroids may also be used to decrease swelling and inflammation of the nerves. Surgery is an option of last resort, and must be carefully considered. Most sciatica sufferers can be treated without surgery, and studies indicate that a vast majority of sciatica sufferers getting surgery did not need them.

Sciatic leg pain, sciatica or low back pain are all term often used to refer to pain in the back and legs as a result of compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The good news is that sciatica, for most, can be treated without drugs and surgery.  

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