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What is sciatica?

James McCormack
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Sciatica is not a condition per se but a reference to pain that occurs along the path of the sciatic nerve. As you will see in the picture below, there sciatic nerve exits the lower spine passes through the back of your hip and down the back of your leg. People who sciatic pain typically experience symptoms on one side only but it is not uncommon to feel it on both sides in more severe cases.

What causes sciatica

From a structural perspective, some of the most common issues occur as a result of a herniated or “slipped” disc which applies pressure to the sciatic nerve. A bone spur which is a growth of extra bone on the vertebrae of your spine or narrowing of the spine also know a spinal stenosis can apply pressure to the sciatic nerve resulting in mild to severe symptoms depending on the level of compression on the nerve.


Sciatica is most typically pain that radiates from your low back, down the back of your hip and may refer as far as your foot. It may not go down the entirety of your leg but in most cases follows that pathway of the nerve and may have pain in your leg only but not in your back which can be confusing.

The sensation of pain can vary in nature. It is often described as a burning sensation, jolt or electric shock while intensity can vary from a mild ache to sharp. Some people can experience numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness. It is not unusual to have numbness in part of your leg while another is experiencing weakness.

In some cases if symptoms are severe in nature you may need to contact your doctor. In most cases conservative treatment is the most appropriate line of care. This is lead by a chartered Physiotherapist. If you would like any further information or have some of the symptoms mention in this article please speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

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