Sign In
  • ENG

What is sciatica and who is at risk?

Sciatica is a common debilitating medical condition and these are the symptoms and risk factors you should look out for.

Written by Anuradha Varanasi |Updated : June 14, 2016 9:46 AM IST

Sciatica is an excruciatingly painful medical condition that causes pain from the patient s lower back to the back of the legs. The severe leg pain is caused by a nerve that gets pinched in the lower back and is known as the sciatic nerve. The leg pain can be a lot more intense than back pain that patients experience and this condition can have a debilitating effect on one s life.

Nearly 30% of sciatica patients have persisting symptoms that can last for up to two years and require bed rest for six to eight weeks to recover. The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc which occurs when a disc tears or cracks into the patient s spinal canal. Studies have found that a herniated disc is the cause of 90% of sciatica cases [1].

What are the risk factors of sciatica?

Also Read

More News

It is estimated that 5%-10% of patients with lower back pain also suffer from sciatica [1]. Studies have found that these are the possible risk factors for sciatica:

1. If you are in the age group of 45-64 years.

2. Smoking.

3. Over-exercising or continuous and strenuous physical activity that includes lifting heavy items while bending and twisting. Physiotherapists say these are the exercising options for sciatica patients.

4. Driving for prolonged periods of time can lead to sciatica especially if you have to drive on uneven and pothole-ridden roads.

5. Being over-weight.

6. Your height could also put you at the risk of sciatica or lower back pain. It was found that men and women taller than 175 cm and 170 cm respectively were more prone to lower back pains and sciatica [2].

7. A sedentary lifestyle that involves sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time.

What are the symptoms of sciatica?

The most common signs of sciatica [1] you should watch out for are:

1. Shooting pain from your butt to the back of one leg which is greater than lower back pains. These are the causes of chronic pain in the legs.

2. Experiencing additional pain in your foot or toes.

3. Numbness, along with an abnormal tingling or pin and needles sensation in the affected leg. You can experience this symptom while finding it difficult to move your leg or foot.

4. Other than your butt and leg, you also experience pain around your hips. These are the causes of numbness and tingling sensation.

5. Coughing, sneezing or even trying to laugh causes pain.


[1] Koes BW, van Tulder MW, Peul WC. Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica.BMJ : British Medical Journal. 2007;334(7607):1313-1317. doi:10.1136/bmj.39223.428495.BE.

[2] Coeuret-Pellicer M, Descatha A, Leclerc A, Zins M. Are tall people at higher risk of low back pain surgery? A discussion on the results of a multipurpose cohort. Arthritis Care & Research. 2010;62(1):125-127. doi:10.1002/acr.20023.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

Follow us on