If you’ve ever experienced back and leg pain, you know how uncomfortable and even debilitating it can be. In addition to being distressing and inconvenient, back pain can be a symptom of deeper issues and should not be ignored. One possible cause of continuous back and leg pain is sciatica, which is caused by pain from the sciatic nerve. Find out how to spot and treat sciatica pain and when to see a doctor


What is Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica is nerve pain that comes from the irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, and its span reaches from your lower back down each of the legs. Sciatica pain usually affects only one side of the body and can be quite severe. 

Most patients will recover from sciatica pain within a few weeks. Severe cases that don’t resolve in a timely manner or that affect a person’s walking, bladder, and bowel functions may require surgery. 

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica pain is often caused by herniated disks, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis (spine narrowing) compressing part of the sciatic nerve. Compression of the sciatic nerve can cause numbness, pain, and inflammation in your lower back, hips, buttocks, legs, and even feet. 

What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica pain is most easily recognized by its shooting quality. The pain can appear to radiate from the lower back and all the way down one of the legs. The pain can range from mild to sharp and severe. The following are some other symptoms associated with sciatica:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness in your leg or foot
  • Pain that worsens with coughing or sneezing
  • Pain that’s aggravated with sitting
  • Pain on only one side of the body

Treatment of Sciatica Pain

After using diagnostic tests like X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans to diagnose sciatica, your doctor can prescribe an appropriate course of treatment. Treatments for sciatica pain often include medications like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and narcotic analgesics. 

Additionally, your doctor may recommend the following:

  1. Physical therapy: Exercises that correct your posture and strengthen muscles can help prevent future injury.
  2. Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections can help reduce pain by reducing inflammation.
  3. Surgery: In especially severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove bone spurs and portions of herniated disks. 

When to See a Doctor

It’s important to distinguish between sciatica pain that can be easily managed at home and pain that signals it’s time to see a doctor. You should seek medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • Your pain is the result of a recent injury
  • Your pain affects your ability to control your bowel movements
  • You experience sudden and severe pain in your lower back or leg

If you are experiencing lower back and leg pain and would like to find out the best course of treatment for it, UAB Medical West’s helpful staff can guide you in the right direction.


UAB Medical West in Birmingham, Alabama Cares About You Health

Lower back pain that radiates down your leg can be a sign of damage to your sciatic nerve. To find out if you require medical attention or to learn more about sciatica pain, contact your healthcare professionals at UAB Medical West - serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance!