Sciatica refers to pain that stems from compression of the sciatic nerve. It's often described as shooting pain that starts in the low back and radiates down the affected leg. In some cases it may travel down both legs. The pain correlates with the path of the sciatic nerve as it descends through the buttocks and travels down the back of the leg.
Why is Sciatica so common?
For starters, the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. Secondly, the path of the sciatic nerve requires that it travels through a series of narrow areas as it descends down the lower extremities. These two primary factors make the sciatic nerve an easy target for compression and irritation.
Diagnosing sciatica starts with a review of your symptoms. Pain radiating from the low back into the legs is a likely indicator that you're suffering from sciatica. X-ray films can show if any structural issue in the spine is compressing the sciatic nerve.
Common symptoms include:
discomfort in the lower back
pain that radiates into the lower extremities
numbness in the leg and foot