Sciatica Causes Symptoms Treatment

Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention Strategies

Sciatica, often misunderstood, usually occurs when irritation, inflammation, or compression affects nerves running from the lower back into the legs. While not typically serious, it can cause discomfort and affect daily life. In this blog, we delve into the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive strategies for sciatica. From self-care tips to potential surgical interventions, we aim to provide valuable insights to help you manage this condition effectively.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica isn’t just back pain; it’s nerve pain that starts from sciatic nerve issues like injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve. This nerve travels from the lower back through the buttocks to the legs. Remember, sciatica isn’t a standalone issue; it signals an underlying health concern. Many times, it results from a herniated disc, bone spur, or spinal narrowing pressing the nerve.

Symptoms of Sciatica

The symptoms of sciatica can vary from mild to severe and may include:

  • Pain: Sciatica, often described as burning or electric shock-like, which may radiate down the leg.
  • Tingling or Numbness: It is similar to when a limb falls asleep, affecting the back, buttocks, or legs.
  • Muscle Weakness: Difficulty in moving or controlling the affected leg or foot.
  • Urinary or Fecal Incontinence: A severe symptom indicating nerve damage.

Sciatica can arise from herniated disks, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, pregnancy, or risk factors like age, obesity, and certain occupations.

Causes of Sciatica

  • Disc Herniation: Disc bulges or ruptures may stress on the sciatic nerve, causing inflammation and discomfort.
  • Spinal Stenosis: A narrow spinal canal may compress nerve roots, especially the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.
  • Piriformis Syndrome: The piriformis muscle in the buttocks may irritate or compress the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: Natural wear and tear of vertebral discs may cause sciatic nerve discomfort.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This condition occurs when a vertebra slips out of place, putting pressure on the adjacent nerves, including the sciatic nerve, and causing sciatica.
  • Injuries: Sciatica, often triggered by herniated discs or fractures, results from pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to discomfort and pain.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the growing uterus can compress the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica pain and discomfort.
  • Tumors, cysts: Tumors or cysts in the spine or nearby areas can press against the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica symptoms.

Diagnosis and Tests

Medical History Review:

Your healthcare provider will inquire about your medical history and symptoms to gain insight into your condition.

Physical Examination:

A comprehensive physical examination is conducted, including:

  • Observation of Walking: Changes in your gait due to sciatica are observed by the provider.
  • Straight Leg Raise Test: You’ll lie on an exam table while your legs are slowly raised to pinpoint the onset of pain or symptoms.
  • Flexibility and Strength Checks: Other tests to assess flexibility and strength to identify contributing factors to sciatica.

Diagnostic Tests:

Various tests are utilized to confirm the diagnosis and rule out similar conditions, such as:

  • Spine X-rays or CT Scans: Imaging techniques to visualize the spine and identify any structural abnormalities.
  • MRI Scans: Detailed images to examine the spinal cord, nerve roots, and surrounding structures.
  • Nerve Conduction Velocity Studies: Assess the speed of electrical impulses through nerves.
  • Electromyography (EMG): Measures muscle response or electrical activity to detect nerve dysfunction.

Myelogram: A contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal followed by imaging to visualize the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Treatment Options for Sciatica


  • Ice: Use cold packs for 20 minutes several times a day to alleviate sciatica pain and swelling in the early stage.
  • Heat: Transition to a heating pad or warm compress after initial days for sciatica relief. Alternate between hot and cold packs as necessary.
  • Over-the-counter Medicines: NSAIDs assist in diminishing pain, swelling, and inflammation, offering relief for various conditions, including sciatica.
  • Stretching and Activity: Seek guidance from an experienced neurosurgeon, such as Dr. Arun Rajeswaran, to learn correct stretching techniques. Gradually add strength exercises and aerobic activities to your routine.

Conservative Treatments:

  • Prescription Medications: Painkillers, muscle relaxers, and other doctor-prescribed medication may help.
  • Physical Therapy: Stretch or use low-impact activities like walking or swimming to relieve nerve strain.
  • Spinal Injections: Corticosteroid injections relieve pain and provide short-term relief for up to three months under local anaesthesia.
  • Alternative Therapies: Consider chiropractic adjustments, yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy to manage pain and muscle spasms. Biofeedback can also assist in stress relief.

Note:- If these basic treatments don’t provide any effect on your sciatica pain, then only surgical treatment can provide you relief.

Surgery Options for Severe Cases:

  • Diskectomy: Diskectomy is a surgical procedure aimed at relieving nerve compression caused by herniated disk fragments or sections. It involves the removal of the problematic disk material.
  • Laminectomy: Laminectomy entails removing part of the lamina to alleviate pressure on spinal nerves. It’s suggested if nerve damage persists despite conservative treatment or if symptoms worsen.

Prevention Strategies

While not all causes of sciatica are preventable, adopting healthy lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  • Maintain Good Posture: Proper posture while sitting, standing, and lifting can reduce strain on the spine.
  • Healthy Weight Management: Keeping a healthy weight eases spine stress, lowering the likelihood of developing sciatica and related complications.
  • Stay Active: Regular exercise, including activities that strengthen core muscles and improve flexibility, can support spinal health.
  • Avoid Tobacco Use: Smoking diminishes spinal blood flow, elevating risks of disc degeneration and nerve impairment.
  • Prevent Falls: Removing hazards at home and wearing appropriate footwear can minimize the risk of falls, which can lead to sciatic nerve injury.


Sciatica profoundly affects quality of life, but understanding, management, and prevention can mitigate its impact. Seeking medical attention promptly for persistent or severe symptoms is crucial to prevent complications and aid recovery. Embracing a holistic approach to spinal health reduces the risk of sciatica development and sustains overall well-being. For effective intervention in sciatica, consulting with top neurosurgeons in Dubai, like Dr. Arun Rajeswaran, can provide expert guidance.

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Dr. Arun Rajeswaran

Consult Dr. Arun with a professional experience of more than 13 years in the field of Neurosurgery

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