Sciatica pain is very uncomfortable for those who have to deal with it on a daily basis. The pain is excruciating and can be very debilitating, depending on the severity of the nerve damage. Often, sciatica is a result of a pinched nerve.


There is a wide range of sciatica symptoms and the type and severity of pain depends on the condition causing the symptoms, as well as the individual patient’s experience of the pain.  The most common type of leg pain has these symptoms:

  • Occurs in one leg (not both).
  • Starts in the low back or buttock, and progresses down the back of the thigh and typically into the lower leg and/or the foot.
  • Is usually experienced as a sharp pain, as opposed to a throbbing or dull ache. People describe sciatic nerve pain as burning, searing, or a sharp pain
  • Is usually worse when standing or sitting still, and feels better lying down or walking.
  • Other common symptoms include pressure, numbness, tingling, or a prickling sensation that radiates down the leg.
  • Leg or foot weakness may also be present.


Most of the time, sciatica are caused by a simple irritation to the nerve and will get better with time and nonsurgical care, such as sciatica exercises. It may take several weeks or months before the effects of sciatica are resolved but this is usually a doctor’s first recommendation. However, some sciatica symptoms may indicate a potentially serious injury to the sciatic nerve and immediate medical attention should be sought. These include:

  • If there is bowel or bladder incontinence (inability to control the bowel or bladder)
  • If there is progressive weakness or loss of sensation in the legs
  • If weakness or numbness is present
  • If the nerve is compressed and the pain and symptoms are severe

To clarify the terminology of sciatica, the term itself is often used to describe any form of pain that radiates into the leg. However, not every pain that does this is classic sciatica. If the pain is referred to the leg from a joint (referred pain), then using the term sciatica is technically incorrect.  The correct use of the term sciatica refers to the sciatic nerve being pinched and the pain in the leg is from the nerve (radicular pain).


Medications and sciatica exercises are usually the first line of defense for sciatica patients. But other options exist beyond the medications and specific exercises to help deal with pain, but it can be difficult to know whether an alternative treatment will actually help reduce symptoms. Whether you’re considering acupuncture, massage therapy, nutrition changes, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, chiropractic or physical therapy to help provide pain relief, getting educated and learning insight into each of these alternatives is vital to successful pain recovery.


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