Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Symptoms are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve.
While symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage will occur. Involvement of the actual spinal cord is possible but rare. More commonly, sciatica is a literal "Pain in the butt"
A combination of the following symptoms is most common:
- Constant pain in only one side of the low back, hip/butt or leg, but rarely in both sides
- Pain that originates in the low back or hip/butt and continues along the path of the sciatic nerve—down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg and foot
- Pain that feels better when lying down or walking, but worsens when standing or sitting
- Pain typically described as sharp or searing, rather than a dull ache
- A "pins-and-needles" sensation, numbness or weakness, or a prickling sensation down the leg in some cases
- Weakness or numbness when moving the leg or foot
- Severe or shooting pain in one leg, making it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain and other symptoms in the toes, depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected
- Lower back pain that, if experienced at all, is not as severe as leg pain
- Symptoms may intensify during sudden movements, such as a sneeze or a cough, or when changing positions, such as when moving from a sitting position to standing up.