Sciatica: The Top Sign To Look For

As we’ve continued our series on sciatica, I think it would be a great idea to give you a sense of what to look for.  Not all back pain is created equal, and it would be very helpful to know what to look for when looking for symptoms that might signal sciatica, so that you can communicate this to your Physical Therapist when you go in for your Physical Therapy appointment.

Sciatica involves inflammation of the sciatic nerve and presents as acute or chronic pain down the back of the leg, originating in the buttock and extending to the foot. Pressure can originate in the nerve roots, or can be caused by the gluteal muscle or piriformis tightening over the nerve.   Ususally this manifests itself in one very common symptom:

Radiating Pain Down The Leg

The hallmark of sciatica is pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg.  You might feel the discomfort almost anywhere along the nerve pathway, but it’s especially likely to follow a path from your low back to your buttock and the back of your thigh and calf.

The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating pain. Sometimes it can feel like a jolt or electric shock. It can be worse when you cough or sneeze, and prolonged sitting can aggravate symptoms. Most of our Physical Therapy patients report that only one side of your body is affected.

In addition, some Physical Therapy patients also have numbness, tingling or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. You might have pain in one part of your leg and numbness in another part.  With a concentrated Physical Therapy program, you should be able to overcome this condition and easily get back to an active lifestyle.

Now that you have the main symptom for sciatica, we can move on to treatment.  In my next article, I’ll go through some of our best Physical Therapy home exercises that should help manage sciatica symptoms and help you get back to your normal life fast!

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Dr. Asha Koshy is a Physical Therapist and co-owner of Complete Physical Rehabilitation in Jersey City and Elizabeth, NJ.

She is a McKenzie certified back pain Physical Therapist specialist and also specializes in treating Vestibular conditions relating to vertigo, dizziness, and other balance disorders.

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