What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a type of pain that starts in the lower back and goes through the butt and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. It usually only affects one side of your body.
The most common cause of sciatica is a pinched nerve in the back. The pinched nerve is usually from:

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Sciatica?

Sciatica causes pain that can be very bad. This pain is usually on one side of the butt or one leg. It can be:

  • Constant.
  • Worse when you sit.
  • Burning or tingling.
  • Sharp.

The pain may make it hard for you to stand up or to walk. Sciatica can also cause weakness or numbness or make it hard for you to move your leg or foot.

What Are the Treatments for Sciatica?

Sciatica usually gets better within 12 weeks. Treatments include:

  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicines: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen:
      • NSAIDs like ibuprofen (e.g., Advil and Motrin) help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
      • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) relieves pain.
    • Opioid pain medicines like codeine or morphine.
    • Anti-seizure drugs to relieve pain from damaged nerves.
    • Muscle relaxers for muscle spasms.
  • Physical therapy to reduce pain and help prevent future pain by strengthening the muscles supporting your back, and improving flexibility and posture.
  • Injection of steroids into the area around the nerve to relieve pain and increase function.

Surgery is rarely needed for sciatica. It may be an option if you have:

  • Significant weakness.
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control.
  • Pain that gets worse or doesn’t get better with other treatments.

If surgery is needed, the surgeon usually removes the part of the herniated disc or the bone spur that’s pressing on the pinched nerve.