What is Sciatica?

First, Sciatica is referred to as the lay term of the medical definition Radiculopathy. Sciatica is a nerve pain from the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body running from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the legs. Sciatica pain begins in the lower back, radiates into the buttock and down the back of usually only one leg.


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. Some people 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.

What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Common symptoms of sciatica include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
  • Hip pain
  • Burning or tingling down the leg
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A constant pain on one side of the rear
  • A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up

Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body. Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes.


For some people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.