Pain that shoots down the back of the leg, from about the buttocks to about the knee, possibly further, could be pointing to a problem with the sciatic nerve, otherwise known as sciatica. The pain that might be felt could be numbness, weakness, or tingling, but it could also be sharp and burning. Sciatica results from the sciatic nerve – a broad nerve that branches down from the lower back through each leg – becoming compressed or pinched. Usually, only one side or leg is affected, depending on which side has the irritated nerve.

Causes

A variety of causes lead to the sciatic nerve becoming pinched and pain becoming magnified: excess body weight, pregnancy, poor mattress support, or poor footwear support. Women wearing high heeled shoes often have a hard time managing sciatic pain. Movement such as standing, sitting, or twisting, in the areas affected could aggravate the pain.

Treatment

Although pain can range from mild to severe, sciatica can usually be resolved through non-surgical measures. From the least to most severe pain, prescriptions may include: anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, narcotics, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications. If these do not produce the desired results, your doctor may then suggest corticosteroid injections, which reduces pain by targeting the inflammation around the irritated nerve.

As a last result, surgery may be required, but only in cases where you experience significant weakness, loss of bladder or bowel control, or when you experience significant pain that doesn’t improve with the previously suggested treatments.