Is sciatica causing my leg pain?

sciatica causing leg painDo you have a sharp pain that frequently radiates through your buttocks, down the outside of your leg, right into your foot? If so, you might ask me as so many others have:

Is sciatica causing leg pain?

That’s an easy one. No.

How can you say that without ever meeting me you ask? Let me explain.

The term sciatica can describe the symptoms you are feeling (sciatica causing leg pain). But it doesn’t describe what causes those symptoms.

Mere semantics? Not really. Because ending your sciatic pain doesn’t require finding out what your pain feels like (the symptoms, called sciatica). It requires finding out what is causing it (the underlying condition).

So, what causes sciatica?

Glad you asked. But let’s first clear up what sciatica actually is with a more formal definition to make sure we’re on the same page.

Sciatica is the symptom of radiating pain felt in the lower back, buttocks, hamstring, back of the knee, outside of the calf, and / or the foot. It may also be associated with muscular weakness, numbness, or even an electrical tingly feeling. Yep, tingly is a technical term.

The underlying cause is generally the compression or irritation of either the actual sciatic nerve or one of the major lumbar nerves (L4 or L5) or sacral nerves (S1, S2, or S3).

Outside of trauma or the very rare spinal tumor, most cases of sciatica are caused by one of these four underlying conditions: a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, or piriformis syndrome.

Sometimes women experience sciatica during pregnancy as the enlarged uterus presses against the sciatic nerve and postural dysfunctions associated with carrying the extra weight pulls their spine out of proper alignment.

When it comes to sciatica, the right question isn’t “Is sciatica causing my leg pain?” Instead ask, “Is my leg pain sciatica?” This short video will help you visualize what may be causing your sciatica so you can quickly treat it properly and end your sciatic pain.

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Filed Under: Sciatica
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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13 thoughts on “Is sciatica causing my leg pain?”

  1. JUDITH ADAMS says:


  2. Joel says:

    Prevention is key, that’s why I like what you have to say about sciatica and it’s causes. Good post.

  3. Vesta says:

    Each bit of information regarding my sciatica pain is a link in the chain of finding (some) relief. Much of my time is searching, trying
    different techniques, whatever I’m led to, to find some relief. Your site is the most comprehensive site on the web. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart” for all the good information your site has for sufferers such as myself!

  4. Dotty Beier says:

    Why can’t I find anything on you site about the pain from Scoliosis? Mine has gotten severe but you never mention anything about it.

  5. Joyce says:

    I am wondering if any of the above “posters” have tried going to a Chiropractor? I am presently going to one and so far it’s helped more than I could have hoped for. I still have some pain, but it’s manageable whereas before I was out of my mind with pain. Good Luck.

  6. Odette says:

    Hello I find your website and you send me your book and 2 CD and try again exsercise, because I have sciatic pain on right leg from back to feet I did your excercice again and feel better know, is very painful, but is worst to do exsercice, afters we feel a lot better, since I am young i have back lower pain.
    I appreciate a lot for your help and thank again for the book with 2 CD.
    You help a lot of people to get rid of back pain.

  7. Elizabeth Curlin says:

    I have sciatica pain but the pain is mostly very tight muscles in both buttocks. Have had a fusion L4&5. Iplay a lot of golf and have moved the vertebra. I have done all the stretches of the legs for 11/2’monthe with no relults. Heating pad worn all day keeps the pain down.domyou have any other suggestions to get more relief?

  8. Admin says:

    Hi Elizabeth, We would like to suggest our back pain book -The 7 Day Back Pain Cure which has information regarding different treatment options. It also covers pain relief methods plus other useful aspects to help. You can find out more via the link below

    Thank you
    Admin (The Healthy Back Institute)

  9. Gary de Freitas says:

    You say that pain down the leg from the buttocks down to the foot may not be sciatica.
    What then can it be? I don’t really trouble with my back, the pain is not in the back its in the buttocks and down the leg. What can it be if its not sciatica. I have been trying your exercises but nothing seems to help. I am now using pain killers anf B vitamin tablets but even that does not help. What must I do?

  10. Steve says:

    Gary de Freitas, What we are saying is that “What you are feeling is called Sciatica but Sciatica is not a condition but rather sciatica is a symptom of a condition, in other words, what you are feeling has a root cause and the root cause can be one of four things, click here to read a more comprehensive article:


  11. Anna says:

    I have had sciatic pain since 2013, I did not know the cause of it until this year in April. I have Adenomyosis (when uterus is enlarged) thats putting all the pressure on my nerve. You have to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes that may have occured since pain started.

  12. Anna, Thanks for sharing your story, as you make a great point, low-level persistent pain is a sign that should not be ignored. Often early treatment is much less involved and far less costly. and please don’t just take a pain medication to cover up the pain, that could be the single worst action you can do…

    It has been said, that the quality of your life will depend on the quality of questions you ask your self, think about it!


  13. tom estepp says:

    I had surgery to re-leave pain I was having due to canal stenosis. 6 months out and I am still feeling pain, although with much less severity. It usually gets better by walking but when I go out and exert myself a little, like playing golf or working around the yard, I can barely move the next day. The pain starts in my lower back then shifts to my upper buttocks and radiates at times down outside my leg at my calf. I also have always had tingling in a few toes on both feet since the surgery. I guess my question is I am doing the stretches provided by my physical therapist but it appears when I do anything my lower back becomes inflamed which then causes internal inflammation in and around the nerve. ( I had l3,l4,l5 s1 issues ) . Should I just stop exerting myself and let my body rest? The surgeon said it could up to a year for the nerves to heal but he also said I should be able to exercise a little. biking, walking etc. golfing can sometimes put added pressure on the back muscles. The problem is I start to feel better then go out and do something and then I am in pain again for @ 2weeks. Just wanted to know if I can do anything more then my stretching exercises to help with my recovery.

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