Symptoms Of Sciatica

7 Symptoms Of Sciatica You Need To Know

Sciatica is a disease that causes pain along the path of the sciatic nerve, which goes from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. The pain often starts in the low back and travels down the back of the thigh and calf. Sciatica is typically caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve roots rather than the nerve itself. The most common cause of sciatica, when the sciatic nerve is injured or compressed, this condition develops. And here are 7 key symptoms of sciatica you need to know: 

Lower Back and Buttock Pain

The most common symptom of sciatica is pain in the lower back, buttocks and hips. It usually starts slowly and gets worse over time. The pain is usually felt on one side and may be sharp, shooting or burning in nature. Many people describe sciatic pain as similar to an electric shock radiating down the leg. Pain may worsen when sitting, coughing, sneezing or straining.

Leg Pain, Numbness and Tingling

In addition to lower back pain, sciatica sufferers often experience pain that radiates down one leg. This leg pain often travels below the knee and may feel like a burning or stabbing sensation. Numbness, pins and needles sensation or tingling in the leg or foot are also common. The pain may be worse at night and interfere with sleep.

Muscle Weakness

The sciatic nerve gives nerve impulses to the leg and foot muscles.  Compression of this nerve can cause weakness in the leg muscles, particularly at the knee or ankle. This muscle weakness may cause difficulty moving the leg or foot and a tendency for the knee or ankle to buckle.

Loss of Reflexes

A neurological test by a doctor often reveals reduced or absent reflexes, such as the knee-jerk reflex. Loss of these reflexes indicates that the nerve impulses traveling along the sciatic nerve are impaired.  

Difficulty Standing or Walking

As sciatica progresses, pain and leg weakness can make it increasingly difficult to stand, walk and go about daily activities. People with severe sciatica may be unable to lift the foot at the ankle due to weakness of the anterior tibialis muscle.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

In rare cases, the nerve roots compressed in sciatica include the cauda equina nerves that control bladder and bowel function. Cauda equina syndrome requires emergency treatment to prevent permanent damage and loss of function. Symptoms include inability to urinate, loss of bladder or bowel control and saddle anesthesia (loss of sensation around the groin, buttocks or inner thighs).

Pain After Extended Sitting

Sitting for long periods can aggravate sciatic nerve pain. Prolonged sitting increases pressure on the sciatic nerve roots. People with sciatica often experience spikes in pain after sitting in a car, at a desk or on an airplane for extended times. Stretching the legs by getting up and walking around can help reduce discomfort.


In Conclusion, radiating lower back and leg pain, numbness, tingling and weakness are hallmark symptoms of sciatica. Severe cases can lead to mobility issues and loss of bladder/bowel control. If you experience any symptoms of sciatic nerve compression, see your doctor for a thorough evaluation and proper treatment. With the right diagnosis and care, most cases of sciatica will resolve over time.

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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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