The term ‘sciatica’ describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself—rather it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis.
Sciatica nerve pain
Sciatica is often characterized by one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
- pain that gets worse when sitting
- leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing (vs. a dull ache)
- weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- a sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
Sciatic pain can vary: from infrequent-and-irritating to constant-and-incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms can be different in location and severity, in relation to the condition causing the sciatica (such as lumbar herniated disc).
Symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, but it is rarely a case when permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage that is) will result.
The course of sciatica pain
The incidence of sciatica increases in middle aged patients. Rarely occurring before the age of 20, the probability of experiencing sciatic pain ‘peaks’ in the fifties, and then declines. Often, a particular event or injury does not cause sciatica, but rather it tends to develop over time.
The vast population of people who experience sciatica get better within 3 to 4 weeks, or a month or two at most and find pain relief with non-surgical sciatica treatment. For others, however, the leg pain from a pinched nerve can be severe and debilitating.
There are a few flaring symptoms that may require immediate medical, and possibly surgical, intervention, such as progressive neurological symptoms (e.g. leg weakness) and/or bowel or bladder dysfunction ( Cauda Equina Syndrome).
Since sciatica is caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment is focused on addressing the underlying causes of symptoms such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Treatment is usually self-care and/or non-surgical, but for severe or intractable pain and dysfunction it may be advisable to consider surgery.
Although it may sound counter-productive at first thought, but exercise is usually a better thing for relieving and eliminating sciatic pain than bed rest is!
Patients with sciatica may rest for a couple of days after their sciatic pain has flared up, but after that period of inactivity the pain will usually come back even worse and longer lasting.
Why does this happen?
The reason is that, without regular exercise and movement, the back muscles and spinal structures become “deconditioned” and less able to support the back. The deconditioning or loose physical fitness along with the weakening of the ‘back bone’ (so to speak) can lead to back injury and strain, which causes further pain.
In addition, active exercise is also important for the strength of the spinal discs. Continuous movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy and prevent excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Undoubtedly, one of the best, if not the very best, exercises to relief the sciatica nerve pain and cure sciatica is the 1 Minute Sciatica Exercise.
Watch the video at the link below and learn how to do it at the convenience of your home:
Frymoyer J, “Lumbar Disc Disease: Epidemiology,” Instructional Course Lectures, 1992:41:217-23.