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What is Sciatica
What is Sciatica

What is Sciatica

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What is Sciatica?



Sciatica nerve which originates from the buttock or gluteal area, is subjected to injury or irritation causing sciatica nerve pain. The finger width sciatica nerve which is also the longest nerve in the body comprises five nerve roots of which two originate from lower back or lumbar region and three from the sacrum.

 Types Acute sciatica | Chronic sciatica | Alternating sciatica | Bilateral sciatica


Sciatica occurs due to disc herniation and may initiate suddenly or gradually. Injury in the lower back, ageing and gradual wearing down of bone tissues and discs, obesity, absence of strong core, jobs that require heavy lifting or prolonged sitting, nerve damage due to diabetes, osteoarthritis, lack of exercise and smoking may cause sciatica.


A patient observes mild or severe pain anywhere along the sciatica nerve path which also results in muscle weakness in leg or foot, numbness, pins and needles sensation in leg and foot regions.

The description of pain varies while few terms it as sharp and jolts of pain, others find it as burning, electric or stabbing. The pain aggravates while standing and sitting for prolonged hours, while twisting the body and during sudden movements like coughing.


Employing heat and ice therapy, sciatica could be treated. Inflammation is reduced through ice therapy while heat promotes blood flow and accelerates the healing process. Walking and stretches like reclined pigeon pose, supine twist, seated forward bend, cat-cow stretches and bird-dog poses also provide relief.

While therapeutic massage and bracing, chiropractic care and decompression therapy treats sciatica, platelet-rich plasma therapy enhances healing and tissue regeneration. Proper body mechanics must be employed while lifting weights.



Few precautionary measures which can prevent the recurrence of sciatica are regular exercises, carefulness while lifting heavy objects, proper posture while sitting and standing, and reducing overweight. Avoiding smoking and intake of anti-inflammatory diet including turmeric and ginger, intake of fruits and vegetables, keep sciatica at bay.


FAQ sciatica

Can physical therapy cure sciatica?

Physical therapy strengthens and mobilizes tissues in the lower back, pelvis, abdomen, buttocks and thighs. As a result, pain free functional movement patterns are restored and muscle spasms are reduced. Physical therapy and exercises are first-line treatments to relieve and prevent sciatica symptoms.

Can sciatica cause paresthesia and vice versa?

Sciatica is a combination of pain and numbness radiating into the leg while paresthesia is a tingling sensation associated with numbness. While sciatica is caused by nerve root damage, paresthesia occurs due to diseases and disorders in the spinal cord. Paresthesia does not cause sciatica. Sciatica can cause paresthesia.

Are sciatica and piriformis syndrome same or similar?

Piriformis syndrome and sciatica are not the same. While both affect nerve function, their causes and treatment procedures are different. Buttocks and hip pain constitute piriformis syndrome while radiating leg pain displays sciatica.

What is chronic sciatica?

Chronic sciatica is long term sciatica pain which worsens with twisting, bending and coughing and lasts for more than eight weeks and does not subside with self management. It is treated through hot and cold therapy, over the counter medicines, physical therapy, epidural steroid injections under X-ray guidance and minimally invasive procedures.

Is spine surgery ever necessary to treat sciatica?

Sciatica is treated through spine surgery only if the pain is persistent and progressive and if non surgical treatment fails. If sciatica is caused by cyst, tumour or spinal cord compression, surgery is recommended. If the pain is due to lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar laminectomy is performed.

How do I treat sciatica at home?

Sciatica can be treated at home through mild exercises, stretches, proper postures, over the counter medicines, ice and heat therapy, plank exercises and sciatic nerve mobilization.

What are sciatica symptoms? Is it required to consult a doctor?

Mild sciatica is short-lived and one must approach a doctor when the pain exceeds one week. Changes in bowel and bladder function and worsening neurological symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Can B12 shots help with numbness from sciatica?

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause sciatica and patients must add vitamin B12 rich foods like turkey, salmon and eggs in their diet. Vitamin B12 injections are part of combination therapy and regenerate nerves and minimize pain in acute sciatica.

How much downtime is there with sciatica?

Acute sciatica lasts from 4 to 6 weeks and becomes chronic thereafter. Doctors try to treat sciatica without medical intervention until the pain exceeds 12 months. Sciatica subsides on its own through proper postures, mild exercises and stretches. Duration of sciatica depends on the underlying problem.

Can a person with sciatica lie on the floor?

Since sleeping on the floor can alleviate sciatic pain, patients can avoid direct contact with the floor by using a yoga mat or towel. Specific sleeping postures are comfortable and minimize stress on the sciatic nerve.