Sciatica is pain radiating from the sciatic nerve. This nerve which is sometimes as large as your finger passes from the lower spine, behind the hip joint, down the buttock, in back of the leg to the foot.

Symptoms of sciatica are varied, but usually a sharp pain exists on one side of your body radiating from the hip or buttock to the foot. This pain can be a sharp, shooting pain as well as a tingling, burning, or pins-and-needles sensation. Coughing, sneezing, and sitting will usually make the pain worse. At times the pain may only present in the foot although the condition exists in the area of impingement of this nerve in the spine, hip, or buttock.

The causes most common for sciatica are from compression of the nerve between two vertebrae due to narrowing of its passage from arthritis, or a bulging disk between the vertebrae causing compression.

Diagnosis is made by physical examination and history. Some simple straight leg testing can be done by your podiatrist to suggest that sciatica is occurring. If this condition is suspected they may refer you to a spine specialist.

Prevention of sciatica can be accomplished through the following tips. Lift with your back straight, bringing yourself up with your hips and legs and holding the object close to your chest. Strengthen your back and abdominal muscles with swimming, walking, or exercises recommended by your physician or therapist. Use good posture to relieve the pressure on your lower back. Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Consider job retraining if your work requires lots of heavy lifting or prolonged sitting. Finally keep all objects out of your back pocket when sitting (especially a large wallet).

Treatment may consist of simple bed rest on a firm mattress of floor without excessive bending, or lifting. Applying hot or cold packs to the area may ease the pain and inflammation. Medications such as anti-inflammatories can decrease the inflammation and may be prescribed by your doctor. X-rays may frequently be taken to access any fractures, dislocations, or arthritic changes in your spine or hip. Further testing may be advised including a CT scan, MRI, or nerve conduction study.