How Do You Know If Back Pain Is Sciatica?

By Ben Loomis – DSC_9441.jpg, CC BY 2.0,

Most of us have had some sort of trouble backwards, whether it be mild discomfort or terrible pain. But you’ll probably know immediately with Sciatica, that’s something else.

The telling sign of sciatica is pain which begins in the lower back and shoots a leg into your foot, sometimes the whole way. Sciatica is triggered by the pressure of your sciatic nerve, which stretches from your under-back up to your foot and legs – usually a herniated disk but sometimes a bone spur. This may occur if you are injured or just when you wear and tear.

The medical treatments used for mild Sciatica, such as over-the-counter medicines and cold and hot packs are generally good. But it’s time to call your doctor, if your back pain lasts for more than a week or gets worse. If you have pain suddenly, injury or lose control of the bladder or bowels, these are emergencies, which should be immediately called by your doctor.


Sciatica is characteristic of pain that radiates from the lower (lumbar) spine to the buttock down your leg. Almost anywhere on the way to your nerve, you may experience discomfort, but most likely you follow a path from your low back to your buttock and back.

There is a wide variety of pain ranging, from mild to strong, hot or burning sensations. It may be like a jolt or an electric shock, sometimes. When you cough or sneeze, it may be worse and extended sitting may make the symptom worse. Usually, it only affects one side of the body.

Some individuals are also stunned, tingled or weak in the affected leg or foot. One part of your leg may have pain and another may have numbness.

When to see a doctor

Over time, Mild Sciatica usually disappears. Talk to your doctor if self-care measures do not relieve your symptoms or you experience severe or gradual worsening pain longer than a week. Get medical attention immediately if:

  • Sudden , severe back or leg pain, and stupidity or muscle weakness are present in your leg.
  • The pain results from a violent injury like a car accident.
  • you find your bowels or bladder difficult to control.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for Sciatica include:

  • Age – The most common causes of sciatica are age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated disks and bone spurs.
  • Obesity – By increasing stress on your spine, excess body weight can contribute to changes in the spinal cord that trigger sciatica.
  • Occupation – A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads or drive a motor vehicle for a long time may play a role in sciatica, but there is no conclusive evidence of this link.
  • Extended sitting – People who sit for longer periods of time or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than are active people.
  • Diabetes, man -This condition, which affects your body’s use of blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.


It is not always possible to prevent sciatica, and the condition may recur. The following may play a key role in protecting your back:

Exercise regularly -To keep your back strong, pay special attention to your core muscles — the muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Ask your doctor for advice on specific activities.

Keep a good posture when you sit down -Choose a seat with a good lower back rest, armrests and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or a rolled towel in the small corner of your back to maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips down.

Use the right body mechanics – If you’ve been standing for a long time, rest one foot on a stool or a small box from time to time. Let your lower extremities do the work when you lift something heavy. Move right up and down. Keep your back straight and only bend to your knees. Hold your load close to your body. Avoid simultaneously lifting and twisting. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or inconspicuous.

Are You Looking for Relief From Back and Sciatica? 

Pace Physical Therapy in San Jose, California specializes in back pain and sciatica relief and recovery therapies.  We pride ourselves on offering the best possible physical therapy available and going above and beyond for our patients. Our highly experienced physical therapist will work with you to improve your function and relieve your pain. We start by assessing the body as a whole. Oftentimes the cause of pain or an injury extends far beyond just the body part or muscle hurting. Without taking a comprehensive look at your entire self, we would be doing you a disservice in fully helping you heal and preventing future limitations. We then move on to fixing your areas of limitation.  Not all diagnoses are created equal. One person with low back pain may have completely different limitations than the next person. Your recovery program needs to be specific to what YOUR body needs and not just the typical exercise program that you can find online to and-aid the real issue. Just because your pain decreases or you can walk longer doesn’t mean that it is enough to get you functioning at the level you want to be. While this often signifies the end of care at your typical PT clinic we don’t stop providing guidance until we help you successfully meet every goal you set for yourself with us on day one. Contact us today to schedule your appointment!