What is Sciatica Syndrome?

Sciatica is a common type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg.

Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body. Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes.

For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.

Seek immediate medical attention if you have lower extremity weakness, numbness in the upper thighs, and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by irritation of the root(s) of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. Additional common causes of sciatica include:

  1. Lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)

  2. Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae)

  3. Pregnancy

  4. Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks

  5. Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)

  6. Other things that may make your back pain worse include being overweight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too hard or too soft.