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Sciatica Symptoms: This is How it Feels to Have Sciatic Nerve Pain

June 07, 2017 in Sciatica

Everyone experiences back and leg pain at some point during life, and this can be due to a number of reasons. So how can you tell if the pain you’re experiencing is sciatic nerve pain? Sciatica symptoms are fairly specific kinds of pain, discomfort and sensations. Keep reading to learn more about how it feels to have sciatic nerve pain.

Common Sciatica Symptoms

The most obvious of sciatica symptoms is a radiating pain on one side of your body that can extend from the lower back all the way down the back of your thigh and even down your entire leg. The following symptoms are the most common ways that this pain can be felt when sciatica is the cause:

  • A severe shooting pain in one leg that makes it difficult to stand or walk
  • Numbness, prickling, weakness or a “pins and needles” sensation down one leg
  • Constant pain in only one leg or on only one side of the buttock
  • Pain that feels more sharp and searing, as opposed to a dull ache
  • Possible pain or numbness in the toes
  • Lower back pain that is less severe than the leg pain
  • Numbness or weakness when you move your foot or leg
  • Pain that eases when you walk or lie down but worsens when you sit or stand
  • Pain that worsens with certain movements like changing positions or going from sitting to standing
  • Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze

To learn more about leg pain, including other possible causes, visit our Knee, Ankle, and Foot Pain page.

sciatica nerve pain

Understanding Your Sciatica Symptoms

The way that you experience sciatica pain can also be affected by what is actually causing your sciatica. For example, if spinal stenosis is the underlying cause of your sciatica, you may experience more pain when you walk or bend your body backward. On the other hand, if a lumbar herniated disc is the cause of your sciatica, your symptoms may worsen when you bend your body forward.

Pinched Nerves and Sciatica Pain

Your sciatica pain can also vary depending on where your nerve is being pinched. Two nerves, the L4 and L5 nerves exit your lumbar spine and combine with three nerves, the S1, S2 and S3, that exit your sacral segment to form the sciatic nerve. These nerves branch off again in your leg, so the particular nerve that is being pinched will deliver different signals to certain parts of your body. You may experience any of the following symptoms depending on the nerve that is being compressed:

  • L4 nerve root sciatica: When your L4 nerve is being pinched, your thigh is the most affected area. You may experience a decrease in your knee-jerk reflex or weakness when you try to straighten your leg.
  • L5 nerve root sciatica: When your L5 nerve is compressed, your symptoms can travel all the way down to your ankle and big toe. Symptoms can include numbness or pain in between the big toe and second toe and along the top of the foot.
  • S1 nerve root sciatica: Compression of the S1 nerve primarily affects the outside of your foot and can extend into your toes, particularly the little toe. This can cause weakness when you try to stand on the tips of your toes or when you need to raise your heel off the ground, as well as a reduction in your ankle-jerk reflex.

When to Seek Medical Medical Attention

If you think you’re experiencing sciatica pain, it’s always wise to consult a medical professional to make sure that it is, in fact, sciatica that’s causing your pain and to ensure you don’t have to endure discomfort for too long. While most symptoms of sciatica are mild and not life-threatening, there are certain symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention.

  • Bilateral sciatica (sciatica pain in both legs, as opposed to only on one side of the body)
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction or incontinence
  • Unusual sensations in the genital region
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sciatica pain that gets worse rather than better with time and treatment

Get more information on sciatic nerve pain

Download the Free Sciatica Pain Management Plan for more. Discover more detailed information and educational videos by exploring DR-HO'S Living Pain Free content:

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