Sciatica is the term used to describe pain or injury radiating from the sciatic nerve. This major nerve runs through your lower back, hips and buttocks, and down the back of your leg and into your foot. The nerve itself is the longest and largest in diameter in the human body, and it is fairly vulnerable to damage from accidents, childbirth or surgery. In addition, injuring areas of the low spine that are near the sciatic nerve will generally result in sciatica.
Type of pain. Sciatica pain may or may not be able to be linked to a specific event (impingement can even occur from sleeping wrong on one hip) and can vary from uncomfortable and short-lived to chronic and crippling. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Sciatica pain can vary widely. It may feel like a mild tingling, dull ache, or a burning sensation.” Pain will typically get worse after spending extended periods of time sitting or standing, in the evenings, or when coughing or sneezing.
Where it hurts. In most cases, sciatica pain will manifest itself on one side of the low back inside the lumbar curve, or in the buttock, foot or calf on the injured side. Tightness, tingling or pain on the bottom of your foot could even be indicative of nerve impingement due to a herniated intervertebral disc in your spine. Occasionally sciatica will appear on both sides, but this is rare and will most likely be associated with a major accident or childbirth. If you’ve had hip surgery and pain manifests anywhere from the low back on down, then it could be sciatic nerve damage.
Other symptoms associated with sciatica. Some sciatica sufferers report intermittent pruritic attacks (intense itching) in the injured area. In addition, sciatica may cause numbness or weakness on the affected side. Many cases of sciatica, especially those that interfere with normal activities, may be improved with physical therapy or specific exercises.