Sciatica is itself a symptom. You can suspect you have it if you observe symptoms that typically come with leg pain. The sciatica symptoms are not the same for all people. They could come in form of occasional irritation or may be severe and constant.
The extent and nature of the symptoms that accompany this problem of the sciatic nerve depend on the specific cause. Sciatica is a common complaint. Some estimates suggest that about 2 in every 5 persons will have it at some point during their lifetime.
So, how you can you tell whether that pain you are experiencing is sciatica or it’s a type of entirely different nature? Continue reading to learn more.
Common Sciatica Symptoms
Pain radiating down the leg
By definition, sciatica is a type of pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg. This is essentially the most telltale sign that you have this issue. It is indicative of compression, irritation, or damage to a part of the sciatic nerve.
Pain occurs only on one side
Another characteristic of a case of sciatica is pain sensation on just one side of the body. This could affect either a side of the buttock or leg. But the pain may also be felt in both limbs, depending on what nerve is affected.
Feels weak in the limbs
If you feel weakness in your leg, especially in the knee, when moving, chances are that you are having sciatica. Weakness and numbness are among the problems that can result when the sciatic nerve is pinched.
Sudden movement worsens the pain
A person with sciatica will typically feel the pain worsen when there is a sudden movement, even the slightest. This can increase pressure on the sciatic nerve, thus aggravating the pain. Such movements include sneezing, coughing or laughing.
Among the other common symptoms of sciatica are:
• Intense pain in the leg that makes standing or walking difficult
• Prickling or “pins and needles” sensation running down the leg
• Pain that improves only when you lie down
• The pain feels like a burning sensation
People with sciatica often feel leg pain that is more intense than lower back pain, if they also have the latter complaint.
Nerve Root and Condition-Specific Sciatica Symptoms
Careful evaluation of sciatica symptoms can give an idea of what nerve roots are impacted. You can also have an idea of what medical condition may be responsible for the nerve pain.
Five nerve segments are typically impacted by compression, irritation or damage that can cause you to experience pain. These comprise two lumbar segments (L4 and L5) and three sacral segments (S1, S2, and S3). They facilitate motor and sensory functions in the leg and foot.
Difficulty in stretching your leg may suggest pinching of the L4 nerve root. When the L5 is affected, it could become difficult to coordinate the big toe and ankle while you may also feel pain in the area.
S1 nerve root compression causes a reduction in ankle-jerk reflex and makes it hard lifting your heel off the ground.
Some people may have more than one nerve becoming pinched. This can cause them to experience symptoms that are not specific to compression of a particular nerve root.
It is possible to have an idea of the underlying medical condition, judging by the observed symptoms.
If your leg pain keeps you from exercising or the symptoms get aggravated whenever you bend forward, you can suspect a herniated disc.
Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, causes your pain to become worse when walking, standing or bending your body backward. Symptoms improve when you lie down.
Symptoms Requiring Urgent Medical Help
Immediate medical attention is not essential for every one of sciatica symptoms, although that may be the best option. You can resolve some of these complaints with bed rest.
However, there are certain symptoms that should not be taken lightly. You must get in touch with your doctor at once when you observe them.
Loss of bladder or bowel control
It is best to seek immediate medical attention if you notice that you are finding it hard to control your bladder or bowel. This symptom can be quite worrisome and embarrassing.
But discomfort or potential embarrassment that may accompany bowel or bladder incontinence is not the main worry. This could be a sign of a rare but more serious disorder known as the cauda equina syndrome.
This condition can appear suddenly or develop gradually. Possible symptoms include incontinence, numbness, lower back pain, and sensory or motor function issues. Left untreated, this can lead to paralysis.
You should waste no time in getting in touch with your doctor if you found that your symptoms keep on worsening after whatever remedial steps you might have taken. Progressive aggravation of symptoms such as leg weakness and numbness should be taken seriously.
Worsening symptoms can be suggestive of nerve damage. A surgical procedure may be needed to put things in order when this is the case.
Sciatica symptoms that develop suddenly following a trauma or accident also call for immediate medical help.
Common treatment options can resolve acute sciatica within three months at the most. You should consider talking to your doctor at once if you are starting to have fear about your symptoms.