Menu   WellSpan Health

Health Library

Health Library

Sciatica

What is sciatica?

Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is a pain that originates along the sciatic nerve, which extends from the back of the pelvis down the back of the thigh. The sciatic nerve is the primary nerve of the leg. It is also the largest nerve in the entire body.

What causes sciatica?

Frequently, sciatica is caused by a herniated disk in the spine that presses on the sciatic nerve. Other causes that may put pressure on the sciatic nerve may include the following:

  • Obesity

  • Poor posture

  • Tumor

  • Abscess

  • Blood clot

  • Awkward sitting position

  • Any nerve disorders

  • Piriformis syndrome, or entrapment of the nerve by muscle and connective tissue 

Sometimes a cause for the sciatica cannot be identified.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The following are the most common symptoms of sciatica. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Lower back pain that radiates down the buttock and back of 1 thigh

  • Pain that extends from the buttock down to the foot

  • Numbness (in severe cases)

  • Weakness (in severe cases)

The symptoms of sciatica may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for sciatica may include the following:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

  • Electromyography and nerve conduction study (EMG and NCS). A diagnostic procedure conducted together that records and analyzes electrical impulses in the muscles. During the EMG, thin needles are placed in the muscle to record electrical activity. The NCS is often done along with the EMG to determine if a nerve is functioning normally. Electrodes are then placed in various locations on the skin along the nerve pathway. When stimulating the nerve at various places, the doctor can then determine the specific site of the injury.

What is the treatment for sciatica?

Specific treatment for sciatica will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Sciatica usually heals on its own with rest and time. To help relieve the pain, treatment may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications

  • Heat or cold applications to the sore muscles

  • Movement (keeping your body in motion minimizes inflammation)

  • Surgery (to repair a herniated disk if one is present and if the condition persists)

Sciatica - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2013-10-19T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2013-12-03T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2009-01-26T00:00:00
Published Date: 2013-12-03T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2015 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to www.mywellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×