Helpful Information

Sciatica: What It Is and How to Treat It

sciatic nerve pain

Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, affects between 10% and 40% of the population. [Source: Spine Health] While many people suffer from this issue, few know exactly what it is, what causes it and how to treat it. 

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is pain that runs along the sciatic nerve. It’s a descriptive term for the radiculopathy that occurs when one or more of the nerves that make up the large sciatic nerve are irritated or pinched. The pain is typically felt in the buttocks, back of the leg and, sometimes, the foot. Your risk for sciatica also increases with your height and weight, and is more common in men than women. 

The Sciatic Nerve

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and is made up of five nerve roots from the lower spine. [Source: Spine Health] It plays a huge role in connecting the spinal cord to the skin and muscles in the thigh, leg and foot. The nerve runs from the lower back, to the buttock and down the back of the thigh, ending in the sole of the foot. 

Sciatica Causes

Like we said before, sciatica is a description, but it’s not a diagnosis. Sciatic nerve pain is often caused by common conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease and lumbar spinal stenosis. 

How to Treat Sciatica at Home

Depending on the gravity of your sciatic pain, it can be treated at home. Some of the top ways to treat sciatica at home include gentle exercise, stretching, heat and ice therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. For exercise, we recommend light exercises such as walking or yoga. And, for stretching, start off with these five exercises.

When to See a Spine Specialist

While most sciatic nerve pain can be treated at home, there are some situations where a spine specialist is needed. If you’re experiencing numbness or tingling, symptoms in both legs, bladder or bowel incontinence, persistent or worsening pain, it’s time to book an appointment with a spine specialist. These symptoms could indicate a more serious underlying condition. 

If you’re experiencing sciatica and would like to come in for an appointment, give us a call at 251-607-6117 or request an appointment online.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and non-operative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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