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Sciatica

Pain felt down the back and outer side of the thigh. The usual cause is a herniated disk, which is pressing on a nerve root.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases)

About Sciatica

Many people have low back pain that keeps on coming back. Often, an exact cause cannot be determined and the pain goes away on its own after a few days or a couple of weeks. But if you have low back pain that extends further down through your leg and into your foot, it may be a sign of a slipped disk, or "herniated disk". This kind of pain, which extends into the extremities, is called sciatica. A slipped disk does not always cause symptoms, however.

Sciatica can be very unpleasant. But the good news is that if a slipped disk is in fact causing the pain, symptoms usually subside in less than six weeks on their own in 90 out of 100 people with this problem. If the pain lasts longer than six weeks, it is less and less likely that it will go away on its own or that non-surgical treatment will be any help. Surgery may then be an option depending on the circumstances... Read more about Sciatica

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Botulinum toxin injections as a treatment for low‐back pain and sciatica

Back pain is a common symptom affecting roughly 50% of the population every year. For the majority of people, back pain goes away gradually ‐ usually within several weeks.

Advice to rest in bed versus advice to stay active for acute low‐back pain and sciatica

Low‐back pain (LBP) is one of the most common conditions managed in primary care and a significant cause of absence from work and early retirement. Individuals, their families and society at large all carry part of the burden.

The Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Management Strategies for Sciatica: Systematic Review and Economic Model

Sciatica is a symptom characterised by well-localised leg pain with a sharp, shooting or burning quality that radiates down the back of the leg and normally to the foot or ankle. It is often associated with numbness or altered sensation in the leg.

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Summaries for consumers

Botulinum toxin injections as a treatment for low‐back pain and sciatica

Back pain is a common symptom affecting roughly 50% of the population every year. For the majority of people, back pain goes away gradually ‐ usually within several weeks.

Advice to rest in bed versus advice to stay active for acute low‐back pain and sciatica

Low‐back pain (LBP) is one of the most common conditions managed in primary care and a significant cause of absence from work and early retirement. Individuals, their families and society at large all carry part of the burden.

Physical examination for lumbar radiculopathy due to disc herniation in patients with low‐back pain

Background: Low‐back pain with leg pain (sciatica) may be caused by a herniated intervertebral disc exerting pressure on the nerve root. Most patients will respond to conservative treatment, but in carefully selected patients, surgical discectomy may provide faster relief of symptoms. Primary care clinicians use patient history and physical examination to evaluate the likelihood of disc herniation and select patients for further imaging and possible surgery.

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Terms to know

Lumbar Spine
The lower portion of the spine. The lumbar spine comprises five vertebrae.
Nerves
A bundle of fibers that receives and sends messages between the body and the brain. The messages are sent by chemical and electrical changes in the cells that make up the nerves.
Sciatic Nerve
A nerve which originates in the spinal cord. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It has two major branches, the tibial nerve and the peroneal nerve.
Slipped Disk (Herniated Disc)
A potentially painful problem in which the hard outer coating of the disk is damaged, allowing the disk's jelly-like center to leak and cause irritation to adjacent nerves.
Spinal Disk (Intervertebral Disc)
A circular piece of cushioning tissue situated between each vertebrae of the spine. Each disk has a strong outer cover and a soft jelly-like filling.

More about Sciatica

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Also called: Lumbar radiculopathy, Sciatic neuralgia, Sciatic neuritis

Other terms to know: See all 5
Lumbar Spine, Nerves, Sciatic Nerve

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