Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatica typically affects only one side of your body. The pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Here's an overview of sciatica:

1. Causes:
  • Herniated Disc: One of the most common causes of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. When the soft inner material of a disc bulges out and presses on the nearby nerve roots, it can cause irritation and inflammation, resulting in sciatic pain.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar region can compress the nerve roots, leading to sciatica.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This condition occurs when one vertebra slips forward over another, causing the spinal canal to narrow and compress the nerves.
  • Piriformis Syndrome: The piriformis muscle, located in the buttocks, can sometimes irritate or compress the sciatic nerve, leading to pain that mimics sciatica.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: Age-related changes in the discs, such as loss of hydration and disc height, can contribute to sciatica.
  • Trauma or Injury: Injuries to the spine, such as fractures or dislocations, can cause compression of the sciatic nerve roots.
  • Other Causes: Rarely, tumors or infections in the lumbar spine can lead to sciatica.
2. Symptoms:
  • Pain that radiates from the lower back down the buttock and the back of one leg, sometimes reaching the foot or toes.
  • Sharp, shooting pain or electric shock-like sensation.
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg or foot.
  • Pain that worsens with sitting, coughing, sneezing, or straining.
  • Difficulty walking or standing for prolonged periods.
3. Diagnosis:
  • Diagnosis of sciatica typically involves a physical examination, review of medical history, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to identify the underlying cause and determine the extent of nerve compression.
  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter or prescription medications such as NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, or oral steroids may help alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises, stretches, and other therapeutic modalities can improve flexibility, strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Heat or Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Epidural Steroid Injections: Injections of corticosteroids into the epidural space around the spinal nerves can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief.
  • Surgery: In severe cases of sciatica that do not respond to conservative treatments, surgery such as discectomy, laminectomy, or spinal fusion may be necessary to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve roots.

It's important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis if you're experiencing symptoms of sciatica. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause, severity of symptoms, and individual factors. With appropriate treatment, most people with sciatica can find relief from their symptoms and return to their normal activities.