A pinched sciatic nerve can cause severe and debilitating pain. The nerve roots that exit your spine form the sciatic nerve are extremely sensitive.  If the nerve becomes irritated or inflamed, sciatic nerve pain will result.

Common Misconceptions of a Pinched Sciatic Nerve

Many times people will consider any form of pain that radiates into the leg as sciatica.  This is not the case.  If the pain originates from a joint, this is not sciatica.  If the pain originates from the nerve, this is truly sciatica.

Pain that is caused from arthritis or other joint health conditions can actually feel just like sciatica.  The pain can feel like it is a shooting sharp pain.  While it may feel just like a pinched sciatic nerve, it is not.

Another common misconception of a pinched sciatic nerve is that it is an actual health condition.  Sciatica is a symptom, not a diagnosis.  Sciatica describes the pain that radiates down the leg due to compression of the sciatic nerve.  The problem that is causing the compression is the actual diagnosis.  For example, a herniated disc (diagnosis) could be causing the sciatica (symptom).

Characteristics of Pinched Sciatic Nerve Pain

The characteristics of pinched sciatic nerve pain you may experience will depend on the severity and condition causing the symptoms. The most common characteristics of leg pain caused from a pinched sciatic nerve are:

  • Pain occurs in one leg and not both.
  • Pain starts in the lower back or buttock and radiates down the back of your thigh and into the lower leg and/or foot.
  • Pain is generally described as sharp, rather than throbbing or a dull ache.  It is also described as a burning sensation.
  • Pain is usually worse when you are standing or sitting still and feels better when you lie down or walk.

Other characteristics include:

  • Pressure
  • Numbness
  • Prickling sensation
  • Tingling
  • Weakness

These characteristics will radiate down your leg and into your foot.

Treatment Pinched Sciatic Nerve

Treatment will depend on the severity of the pain and/or symptoms.  If you experience loss of bowel or bladder control, progressive weakness or complete loss of sensation in your legs, you must contact a physician immediately.  Surgery is an option for severe cases; however, there are many home remedies you can try first.   Here are just a few:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation
  • Pain medication (prescribed or over the counter) to reduce pain.
  • Put one pillow under your knees when you lie down to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Lie down on a firm mattress or on the floor.  Do not do this for more than three days.  Too much rest is not very effective and can even worsen your symptoms.
  • Apply a hot or cold pack to your back and upper legs.
  • Avoid lifting anything.
  • Do not bend or sit in soft chairs.
  • Eat a diet that is rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables to prevent constipation.  The strain from constipation can irritate the sciatic nerve.

Sciatic exercises, such as the low back stretch, the cat stretch, the hamstring stretch, and yoga, are also important for your recovery.  Make sure to get approval from your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine.

Sciatic exercises work the tense and stiff muscles.  They help to realign your posture, improve flexibility and range of motion, and reduce the risk for future flare-ups.  They also help to strengthen your leg muscles, improve circulation in your legs and increase flexibility in your hips.  Sciatic nerve exercises can be very helpful for a pinched sciatic nerve.