Sciatica, also known as lumbar radiculopathy, is numbness, tingling, weakness, or pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve caused by compression of the nerve.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and all the way down the backs of the legs to the feet. It is the longest and widest nerve in the body.
Typically, sciatica affects only one side of the body at a time. Symptoms of sciatica can be mild or severe, with sciatic pain ranging from a dull ache to pain that is described as sharp, searing, or electric-like. It’s also possible to have numbness or tingling in one area of the nerve and sharp pain in another.
Sciatica occurs when something irritates a nerve root in the lower back. Most commonly, that “something” is a bulging or herniated disk between the vertebrae in the lower spine. But a number of other conditions can cause sciatica, and determining what is causing sciatica can be helpful in treating it.
In most cases, sciatica goes away on its own in a few weeks. That’s why doctors generally recommend conservative treatment initially — such as over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs or heat on the affected areas, stretching, and moderate activity — to reduce symptoms while waiting to see if it clears up.
If home remedies don’t ease the pain, the pain is severe, or there are additional symptoms, such as leg weakness, numbness ascending from the feet up the legs, or loss of bowel or bladder control, you should seek medical attention.