Sciatica refers to pain—and possibly numbness, tingling, and weakness—that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve located in the back of each leg. Your sciatic nerve and its branches allow you to control the muscles in your lower legs and the back of your knees, while also providing feeling in the soles of your feet, the back of your thighs and certain portions of your lower legs. When one or more of these nerve roots is compressed, you may feel pain, numbness and weakness in these areas.

You can develop sciatica if a spinal disc in your lower back tears, bulges, or herniates, compressing the root of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can also be caused by an abnormal narrowing of your spinal column, called stenosis. Other potential causes of sciatica include spondylolisthesis, a condition that develops when one or more spinal bones slips out of place.

In its classic form, the pain of sciatica follows the course of your sciatic nerve and extends from your lower back through your buttocks to the rear of your upper legs. For some people, the sensation is similar to a mild leg cramp; however, unlike a leg cramp, the pain lingers for weeks at a time. For others, the pain is more severe and feels like an electric shock or a burning sensation. Sciatica-related pain often grows worse at night, directly after you sit or stand, walk for any substantial distance, or bend your body at the waist.


North American Spine partner physicians have the broadest range of minimally invasive solutions for your back or neck pain. Depending on the location and severity of your pain, your treatment will fall into one of the following categories:

  • Decompression: Minimally invasive decompression surgery aims to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves. This pressure can be caused by many conditions. Using a surgical laser, if necessary, soft tissue will be removed and pressure on nerves will be relieved. For more on decompression, see Decompression.
  • Stabilization/Fusion: Minimally invasive stabilization/fusion surgery aims to restore spinal stability lost to collapsed discs. Diseased material is removed and stability is regained by fusing vertebrae or replacing diseased material with specialized hardware. For more on stabilization, see Stablization
  • Injections: Injections aim to reduce inflammation, block pain, and/or aid in the regeneration of healthy nerve passages. These procedures often are not permanent solutions, but they may be repeated when pain returns. They are extremely quick procedures with virtually no recovery time.
  • Other Procedures: North American Spine partner physicians may suggest other types of procedures, including the placement of a Spinal Cord Stimulator, an implanted device that blocks the pain signals created by a variety of conditions. For more on our other procedures, see Other Procedures.

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