Identifying Symptoms Of Sciatica

The symptoms of sciatica can be difficult to put into words for many sufferers because the sensations are unknown and pain is the most distinct symptom of all. Another reason for the difficulty in identifying symptoms is that not all sciatica sufferers experience the same symptoms, so an accurate self-diagnosis is not easy. Because the sciatic nerve covers a large section of the body—from the lower back region down to the feet—the pain and other symptoms can be localized to one area or spread throughout the length of the nerve.

The only way to guarantee successful rehabilitation is by accurately identifying the symptoms so you can get to a physician for a full diagnosis. It is important that you don’t try to simply treat the sciatica because sciatica is almost always a symptom of an underlying injury. 

Sciatica 101

The first thing you should know about sciatica is that while it does have symptoms, it is actually a symptom as well of an underlying injury or trauma to the sciatic nerve. When the discs in the lumbar region of the spine are leaking fluid or protruding, this causes pressure to the sciatic nerve which is known as sciatica.

Feeling symptoms of sciatica is an indication that you have some other injury causing sciatica. It is important to seek medical attention right away because although sciatica symptoms will dissipate over time, it will occur again and again until the underlying problems are addressed.


So how do you know if you have general back pain or sciatica? It can be difficult to diagnose sciatica because general lower back pain can cause some of the same symptoms, including pain, numbness and irritation in the lower back, down to the buttocks, hips and legs. Sciatica sufferers may feel muscle weakness on one or both sides of the body and limited mobility.

One thing that can differentiate sciatica symptoms from other types of back pain is where the pain is felt. If it is sciatica, the symptoms are nearly always felt on either the right or left side of the body, rarely both. This is unlike acute or chronic lower back pain which often is felt across the lower back and both sides of the body.

There are other conditions that can be the underlying cause for sciatica, which is why it is so important get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible. A herniated disc, spinal stenosis and isthmic spondylolisthesis can all cause symptoms of sciatica due to the pressure these conditions place on the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome may also cause these symptoms because it has been known to put a great deal of pressure on the large sciatic nerve, particularly in the lower back area. Any condition that compresses any of the give different roots of the sciatic nerve can present with these symptoms.

Your recovery depends on how quickly you get to a physician and a diagnosis. Treatment for sciatica is not quite the same as it is for other back injuries. Where exercise is a common treatment for lower back pain, it has been known to exacerbate the symptoms of sciatica. Regular activities such as bending, lifting, walking or twisting can cause inflammation of the sciatic nerve, and are not recommended.

These symptoms often come and go, which is yet another reason diagnosis can be difficult. Although most physicians recommend 4 to 6 weeks of pain before seeking medical advice, the sooner you get a diagnosis the sooner your treatment can begin.

It is not recommended that you begin any treatment plan without clearing it with your physician. Many treatments that are successful for traditional lower back pain will not effectively treat sciatica. The wrong treatment plan can lean to worsening pain that may require surgery to repair, while proper care may relieve the pain through massage therapy or physical therapy.

If you have experienced symptoms of sciatica for more than a few weeks, think back to any possible trauma or injury to the back and then consult your physician. Early diagnosis can mean non-invasive all-natural treatments that work. 

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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