Sciatica symptoms and diagnosis

Sciatica symptoms are typically found on one side of the lower body. Here's what to look out for.

Sciatica symptoms can include pain that radiates along your body’s sciatic nerve as well as other issues. This nerve extends from your lower back to your buttocks, hips and the backs of your legs. If the sciatic nerve is compressed, the resulting symptoms are called sciatica.

One of the most common causes of sciatica is a herniated disc. When they are healthy, discs act as shock absorbers to your spine’s vertebrae. If discs become damaged or worn down, they can bulge and press on nerves in the spinal column, including the sciatic nerve. Visit our sciatica causes page to learn more about the ways that your body’s longest nerve can be compressed.

Common sciatica symptoms

Sciatica symptoms vary considerably, depending on the type and severity of the underlying condition. You may feel tingling, numbness, weakness or a dull to sharp shooting pain down the thigh and leg. Typically, the pain starts slowly and affects only one side of the body at a time but it is possible to experience it on both sides as well.

Other sciatica symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sitting, standing or walking
  • Worsening pain when you cough, laugh or sneeze
  • Discomfort when leaning backward
  • Muscle weakness

If you’re experiencing any of these sciatica symptoms, reach out to your doctor. He or she can ask you about symptoms, perform a physical examination and perform other diagnostic tests like an MRI and nerve conduction tests. The purpose is to positively diagnose the underlying cause of sciatica and to rule out other causes of these symptoms

Upon diagnosis, most doctors will recommend a course of conservative treatment options. Please review our sciatica nerve treatments page for tips on reducing pain and swelling, including using hot and cold packs, over-the-counter medication and exercises.

Next steps

Sometimes, patients need more than conservative treatment to regain normal motion and find relief from pain. If you are considering surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open back surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute.

With a quicker recuperation time^ and lower risk of complication than traditional open back surgery, our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery can help you find lasting relief from sciatica symptoms.

To receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, contact our dedicated team today.

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