ZocdocAnswersWhat is sciatica?

Question

What is sciatica?

Lately, I?ve been experiencing a lot of pain in my left thigh. I have a lot of problems with my feet and legs because I was born with clubbed feet, but I?ve never had this much pain in my thigh for this length of time. A friend of mine mentioned that the pain could actually be related to sciatica. I haven?t had any recent falls or trauma to my back, so I'm not sure why I would be having issues with sciatica. The pain is sharp and stabbing at times and wraps around my thigh from my hip to my knee. Could it actually be sciatic even though I haven't experienced any trauma or thrown my back out?

Answer

Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve, which begins at the spinal cord in the lower back and extends through the buttock before running down the rest of the leg. There are a number of different reasons this can occur, which is why it is important to see a primary care physician to fully evaluate your leg pain. It is true that many people develop sciatica as a result of injury or a slipped disk in the back, but it can also be caused by sitting for long periods of time, infection, diabetes or, rarely, tumors. People with sciatica often experience pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness running down the back of the leg. Most people with sciatica tend to experience symptoms affecting only one side of the body. Most cases of sciatica improve without treatment within days or weeks. For people with severe symptoms affecting their day to day functioning, a doctor may recommend medications that can improve symptoms while the sciatic nerve heals. Please visit your primary care physician. You doctor will perform a complete history and physical exam, as well as possibly ordering imaging tests that may assist in making the diagnosis. Until you see a doctor, resting your leg and back, taking over the counter pain relievers, and applying alternating hot and cold compresses to the low back, buttock, and leg can improve symptoms and reduce inflammation. Have someone drive you to the nearest hospital as soon as possible if you experience fever, confusion, paralysis, loss of bowel or bladder control, or sharply increasing pain; these may be symptoms of a serious disorder that requires immediate treatment.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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