What is Sciatica?

Many people suffer from low back pain and sciatica. Most of us know exactly what low back pain is, but aren’t so sure about sciatica.

Let’s define it.

What is Sciatica?

man with sciatica pain Sciatica is a generic term that describes pain, numbness and tingling in the groin or down the leg that may occur suddenly or gradually develop over time. 

The pain is typically felt in the low back to behind the thigh running down the leg. The referred pain, numbness and tingling in your leg can be coming from a multitude of sources. It may be a symptom of a pinched nerve affecting one of the lower spinal nerves. There are three primary causes of Sciatica:



  1. Arthritis, stenosis, or degenerative disc disease (DDD):  All three of the above-mentioned terms describe arthritic changes that occur in the spine.  As our body adapts to stress and gravity throughout its lifetime, a natural response of our body is to increase the weight-bearing surface of any joint, which results in arthritis.  As the arthritis in the spine continues to progress, it can actually cause compression of a nerve, which will then cause pain, numbness or tingling in the groin or down the leg. Some common characteristics of people suffering from stenosis include 50 years of age or older, pain when standing straight that is relieved when you sit for a moment or bend forward.

  2. Herniated disc:  The spine is designed with 33 vertebrae (7 in the neck, 12 in the upper and mid back, 5 in the low back and 9 non-movable in the lowest portion of the back and tailbone).  In the portion of the spine that moves, there is a disc at each level that serves as a shock absorber.  The disc can become injured and herniated, which means that the outer fibers of the disc tear and the center of the disc pushes a portion of the disc beyond its normal limit and can compress a spinal nerve.  The herniated disc will cause significant pain in the low back, but the compression of the nerve will cause a wide range of painful and tingling symptoms that run down the leg.  Common characteristics of people suffering from herniated discs include 45 years of age and younger, pain bending forward, pain when lifting and pain when sneezing.

  3. Sacroiliac joint (SI joint) disorder:  The SI joint describes the bony articulation of the lowest portion of the spine and the two hip bones. This is a very complex joint that is responsible for transferring forces from the ground up to the trunk and arms as well as the arms back to the ground.  Common characteristics of people suffering from sacroiliac joint disorders include pain in the low back that radiates into the groin or down the most lateral aspect of the leg, not below the knee. This injury is most common in women but can be seen in men, especially those who participate in contact sports or heavy lifting. 

A quick and reliable way to determine if you have sciatica is to perform a seated leg extension test. Click here to try the seated leg extension test.

Dynamic Physical Therapy

If you would like to determine which of the three above-mentioned common causes of sciatica you may have, call us today or schedule an appointment!

Our mission is to provide genuine personal care, one-on-one treatment and individual attention while delivering truly manual, hands-on physical therapy techniques, within communities at convenient locations, accessible to patients.

Visit our website to learn more so you can start getting your life back on track!

  • Westover: (304) 225-5222
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  • Sabraton: (304) 225-0910


Do it Yourself Activities to Reduce Back Pain

Thanks for reading,

Lincoln Kinkade

By | 2017-05-09T12:30:16-04:00 April 27th, 2016|Back & Sciatica Pain|0 Comments