Sciatic nerve pain refers to pain associated with pressure of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve, which controls muscles in the back of the knee and lower leg and provides feeling to the legs and feet. The pain usually begins in the lower back and extends down the leg to the calf, foot and sometimes the toes. The pain is usually limited to one side of the body.
While sciatic nerve pain is typically a result of a herniated disc in the spine pressing on the sciatic nerve roots, it also is a common problem in individuals with spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), bone spurs (bony outgrowths that develop along joints), or pinched nerves caused by injury. Conditions unrelated to the spine, including tumors or pregnancy, also may cause sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatic nerve pain is diagnosed with medical history and physical exam, while imaging tests, such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), are often used to examine the cause of the sciatic pain. Treatment typically involves exercise, pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications, hot and cold therapy, steroid injects, or in severe cases, surgery.
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