Pain Stemming From a Compressed Sciatic Nerve

Your sciatic nerve begins in your lower back. From there, it runs down and splits into two separate nerves that continue down through the right and left hip, buttock and leg. Sciatica is any kind of pain that stems from the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica is not a medical condition, but a symptom of one. The pain occurs because the nerve is compressed, or squeezed. Some conditions that can compress the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica include herniated disk, spinal stenosis, bone spur on the spine and piriformis syndrome. Tumors and pelvic fractures can also lead to sciatica

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Sciatica pain varies greatly. It may be constant or come and go. You may feel it in your lower back, in your buttocks, along the back of your legs or in the soles of your feet. However, it usually only affects one side of your body.

Some ways you may describe your sciatica pain are:

  • Mild tingle
  • Dull ache
  • Warm ache
  • Intense, shocking pain
  • Stabbing pain

You may also have a numb or weak feeling in the affected leg.

To diagnose sciatica, your doctor will perform a physical exam and review your medical history. Reviewing your medical history may be enough to find the cause of your sciatica. However, imaging tests and other tests may be needed in order to find out what is compressing the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica can be managed with the right diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, no treatment is needed, and the pain improves with time. However, treating the condition that’s causing the nerve to be compressed is often important for proper rehabilitation.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Complete, Multidisciplinary Specialty Care

Our doctors deliver state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment for sciatica through the dedicated Penn State Health Spine Center. As part of Penn State Bone and Joint Institute, this specialty center offers focused care for both common and complex conditions affecting the spine and spinal cord. Fellowship-trained providers from neurosurgery, orthopaedics, pain management, radiology, physiatry and more work closely together to give you the most complete, efficient care and best patient outcomes.

Dedicated Back Pain Program

Developed by Penn State Health Spine Center, the Back Coach [Link to:] is a dedicated program designed to provide you with the information, resources and support you need to understand and manage your back pain. Through this program, you can learn the causes of back and neck pain and the treatments available and send your questions to our spine care experts.

The Back Coach also includes an app for your mobile device that lets you track and manage your pain so you can really understand what’s causing it and what works to reduce it – a key part to treating back pain.

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

If sciatica progresses to the point that it requires surgery, our fellowship-trained neurosurgeons and orthopaedic spine surgeons provide the highest-level care. This is demonstrated by the Blue Distinction designation given to Penn State Health Spine Center by BlueCross BlueShield.

As a Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery, the center and its surgeons have been recognized for delivering expert spine surgery care. This respected designation is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for providing superior treatment.

Advancing Spine Care Through Research

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania. Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine.

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