Sciatica can be a pain in the butt—literally. The condition often manifests in upper buttock pain instead of in the back, which can lead to confusion for those who are suffering a first-time bout. So how do you know if what you’re experiencing is from sciatica or something different? There are some telltale signs, but, often, only a trip to the back doctor will confirm a diagnosis.
What is sciatica
“Sciatica is pain, tingling, or numbness produced by an irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve,” said WebMD. “The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord into the lower back. It goes down through the buttock, then its branches extend down the back of the leg to the ankle and foot.”
Sciatica is not a diagnosis, per se, but rather collection of symptoms, such as upper buttock pain, that indicate an underlying source.
Getting to the source of the pain
Is your pain only in your upper buttock area, or are you feeling it in other areas, too, like your back and hip? “Often, when a person complains of hip and back pain, the go-to diagnosis is sciatica,” said Breaking Muscle. “Sciatica is actually a very specific source of pain. The sciatic nerve’s origin point is just at the top of the gluteal muscle in the L4 and L5 vertebrae. When inflammation occurs in this area, it can compress the sciatic nerve and send a radiating pain down the back of the leg, typically ending at the knee but potentially carrying all the way to the calf.”
Sciatica pain can be felt anywhere along the sciatic nerve, and your experience may be completely different from someone else’s. But involvement of pain that goes beyond upper buttock pain and especially involves your arms, legs, and hips can be a good sign that sciatica is the cause. Tingling in the leg—either pins-and-needles or a prickly sensation—or a burning sensation in the legs and feet, numbness along the nerve path, tightness in the leg muscles, and radiating pain down through the knee or even the foot are other common symptoms of sciatica.
If you’re tempted to wait it out and let the pain subside on its own, beware that another typical symptom is pain that gets worse over time, “after standing or sitting for long periods of time; when sneezing, coughing, or laughing; and after bending backwards or walking more than 50–100 yards,” said the New York Times.
If it’s time to address your upper buttock pain and get treatment for sciatica or another painful back condition, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain today. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.