BPS 9: What are the Symptoms and Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain?

Sciatica is associated with a feeling of pain, weaknesses, and numbness. Symptoms of sciatic pain differ but generally involve a pain in the buttocks. Sometimes the pain is felt in the back of the thigh, calf, or even just the toes.

Keep in mind that sciatica involves radicular pain that originates from the nerve. A pain that originates from the joint is not sciatica, but joint pain. The specific nerve pain can be traced to the area that has been injured.

Here you will learn about the different types of sciatica nerve pain depending on the source of the pain.

Symptoms of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatica nerve pain generally originates from the area between the lumbar segments L3 and L4 and L4 and L5. In some cases, it also originates between the lumbar segment L5 and sacral segment S1. Symptoms experienced by an individual differs depending on the location of the pain.

Sciatica from L3-L4 Level

Sciatica symptoms that stem from the L3-L4 nerve root include pain in the lower leg or foot. The patient may not be able to heel walk i.e. bring the foot upwards. In addition, there is reduced knee-jerk reflex associated with nerve pain that stems from this level.

Sciatica from L4-L5 Level

Sciatica symptoms that stem from the L4-L5 nerve root include pain at the top of the foot. The patient may also experience muscle weakness in the big toe extension and also in the ankle known as the foot drop.

Sciatica from L5-S1 Level

Sciatica symptoms that stem from the L5-S1 nerve root include pain to the lateral side of the foot. The patient may also experience muscle weakness or numbness when walking on tiptoes or raising the heel. In addition, there is reduced knee-jerk reflex.

Although the above symptoms are common, an individual may also experience other symptoms that depend on factors such as the degree of the specific pathology and anatomical variances.

Common Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Sciatic nerve pain can be caused due to different reasons. One of the most common reasons for the condition is a lumbar herniated disk. Other causes of the sciatic nerve pain include the following.

  • Spinal Stenosis — The condition refers to narrowing of the spaces within the spine. This puts pressure on the spinal nerve causing pain in the lumbar region.
  • Spondylolisthesis — It is a slipping of the vertebra at the base of the spine. This can occur due to a defect or fracture of the wing-shaped parts of the vertebrae.
  • Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease — It involves the natural breakdown of the spinal Disc degeneration can be caused due to again or trauma. The condition causes acute chronic pain if left untreated.
  • Osteophytes — The term refers to a bony projection that occurs due to degeneration of cartilage at the joints.
  • Piriformis Muscle Syndrome — Pressure on the piriformis muscle can result in sciatica like The pain is more intense above the knee.
  • Dysfunction of Sacroiliac Joint — Pressure on the sciatic nerve can result due to sacroiliac joint dysfunction. This results in a severe pain that is similar to sciatic pain.

Apart from the above, activities such as carrying a heavy load can lead to sciatica like symptoms. It’s recommended to consult with an experienced medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of sciatica nerve pain.

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Robin BackPainExpert

Physiotherapists & Back Pain Expert

Twenty years ago I was lucky to survive a serious hockey injury. In a sport where big men zoomaround on hard ice and solid wood sticks are slung furiously, a difficult back injury is what every player fears.
It took a long time for me to climb back to a normal life. But when I did, I was determined to spend the rest of his life helping back pain victims everywhere.
As a physiotherapist and back pain expert I have treated thousands of patients over 20 years, built a respected back pain clinic, created the site BackPainSecrets.Com and authored the book “Back Pain Secrets.”
Learn more about me here.