One of the most common misconceptions about sciatica is that it is, in and of itself, a medical condition. Instead, sciatica is the name used for a collection of symptoms that indicate an underlying medical condition that affects the sciatic nerve. Here’s ten of the most common sciatica symptoms you should watch out for.
What causes sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve on the body, attaching to the lumbar spine, traveling deep through the buttocks and down the leg all the way to the feet. Any conditions that cause damage, trauma, or prolonged compression of this nerve can lead to pain.
Many different conditions can cause sciatic pain, including:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Injuries in the spinal column, such as herniated discs, a pinched nerve, or slipped discs
- Injury to the lumbar spine
- Muscle spasms
- Piriformis syndrome
- Spinal stenosis
- In rare cases, tumors and severe infections
The following video goes over sciatica in more detail.
Who suffers from sciatica?
Risk factors such as obesity, a highly physical occupation, pregnancy, and genetics can influence whether or not someone develops sciatic nerve pain as a result of one of the above conditions.
Dr. Axe explains that:
“It’s estimated that 1 percent to 2 percent of all adults experience a herniated disc at some point that leads to sciatic nerve pain. Much more common in men than in women, and more likely to develop in people over the age of 30, sciatic nerve pain can affect both athletes/those are who are very active or people who are more sedentary… In most adults, herniated or slipped discs are the result of years of aging and putting stress on the body, from things like exercise, poor posture, high levels of inflammation and sometimes injuries. As we age, naturally the spinal discs lose their elasticity as spinal fluid decreases, causing the likelihood of experiencing cracks or tears to increase.”
What are the most common sciatica symptoms?
Regardless of the cause of your sciatic pain, there are characteristic symptoms to be on the lookout for. The most common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain down the back, buttocks, and one leg
- Pain on one side of the body
- Burning, pins and needles, or sharp sensations
- Hip pain
- Pain that intensifies when sitting, standing, or sneezing
- Numbness in upper thigh
- Tightness in calf or back of thigh
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Since sciatica shares symptoms with other conditions, like arthritis, it can be difficult to diagnose it. Because of that, it’s always important that you keep detailed notes about the symptoms you’re experiencing to talk to your doctor about them later. Also, people experience sciatica differently. For some, it will be debilitating–affecting every aspect of their lives. Others may only experience pain and other sympt