The pain can be felt at any part of the nerve or along its entire length. Sciatica may take several forms, including:
- Dull or sharp pain
- Mild to extreme pain
- Burning sensation
- "Pins and needles" tingling
- Pain that lasts for weeks or occurs only now and then
- Weakness in the affected area
- Pain when sneezing or coughing
Activity may make the pain more intense. For some patients, sciatica is worse at night.
Causes and Risk Factors
Herniated (slipped) discs account for most cases of sciatica. Discs are rings with tough exteriors and soft insides. They are located between the bones of the spine and act as shock absorbers.
Discs can become weak because of pressure from twisting and bending movements, heavy lifting, bad posture, pregnancy, obesity or other conditions that place strain on them. A weakened disc may herniate (bulge out). If the bulge pushes up against the sciatic nerve or crushes it, sciatica occurs.