Sciatic Nerve Damage

Everything You Need To Know About Sciatic Nerve Damage


Sciatica is caused by sciatic nerve damage or pressure on the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve runs along the spine and down the back of the legs.  It’s the largest nerve in the human body, and it controls muscles in the lower leg and knee and is responsible for feeling in the back of your thigh, lower leg, and sole of your foot.


Sciatic nerve damage can be caused by a number of different problems, including a slipped disk, degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis, tumors, or a pelvic injury.  Usually pain caused by sciatic nerve damage starts out feeling similar to a mild tingling in the leg on one side of the body.  It may also feel like a dull ache or burning.  The pain and tingling can also be felt behind the calf or on the sole of your foot.  In many cases, patients who suffer from sciatic nerve damage may find themselves unable to move because the pain is so severe.  The leg that’s affected by the sciatic nerve damage may also be very weak.


Usually sciatica gets worse after sitting or standing or at night.  Sneezing, coughing, and laughing may also cause the pain from sciatica to increase.  Sciatica usually improves with rest and treatment at home, although it is an indication of an underlying condition, so it’s important to identify what that condition is and treat it. 


Home treatments for sciatica include ice and heating pads.  Ice is your best bet for the first three days, but after that you should switch to heating pads instead.  Over the counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve the pain.  Also try sleeping on your side with a pillow in between your legs.  If you’re a back sleeper, place a pillow under your knees instead.  Your doctor might also recommend a steroidal injection to try and reduce the inflammation surrounding the nerve.


Sciatica and sciatic nerve pain most often occur in people between the ages of 30 and 50.   It’s usually caused by regular wear and tear on the nerve, and not by any specific injury.  Doctors typically diagnose sciatic nerve damage through a review of the symptoms, followed by x-rays, MRI’s, and even blood tests.  Your doctor will carefully consider all your symptoms before deciding which tests to run to confirm sciatica and figure out what’s causing the sciatica.


Treatment for the underlying problem that caused the sciatic nerve damage depends entirely on what that problem is.  A full recovery can be achieved with some problems that cause sciatica, but other problems may leave the patient partially or fully disabled.  Complications may include loss of leg mobility, loss of feeling in the leg, and side effects from medications prescribed by the doctor to treat the underlying cause of the sciatica.  In some cases, physical therapy may help the patient recover all or some use of the leg that was affected.  A neurologist can provide the specialized medical knowledge you need to find as much of a recovery as possible.