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What does your sciatica feel like?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
I thought it might be interesting to hear what other people would describe their sciatica pain as feeling like. I wonder if the pain is similar for all of us or really different. My pain feels like there are 2 strings in my body. One starts in my lower back, the other starts in my right foot and they are tied together where my butt and thigh meet. Then it feels like someone is tightening the knot where they are tied together and at the same time pulling down from my back and up from my foot. Of course I have this with the electric shock like pains and burning sensations in my thigh.

What does it feel like for you?


  • Imagine a fist inside your gluteus muscle squeezing it as hard as possible, and constantly. Brutal. Also had radiating and severe pain down outer left thigh, and outer/ central left calf. I experienced no burning or electric shock sensations, but lots of painful cramping, stabbing pains, and spasms in left calf. It never extended to the foot for me. It's better now since surgery, but it still comes back to say "Hi" if you get my meaning. I'm sure it's a bit different for everyone.
    Stay cool,

  • mine is like that too ..and i have also described it like my leg and foot being encased in concrete and someone pouring boiling hot water over it..or like ..cling film wrapped all over your leg and someone standing on your foot..dont we have it good!!
  • mine feels like a burning rope running all the way from my butt to my foot. Some malevolent being has vice grips attached in intervals and is playing a Metallica rif on them! I also like to tell people that its kind of like hitting your funny bone, but the pain, numbness, tingling never go away!
  • When my sciatica first started, I only felt the pain in the right buttock. It felt like an ice pick or a knife stabbing my buttock. The exploding/shooting pain would stop me in my track and I had to wait until the pain subsided to move on.

    Later the sciatica pain radiated down to the back of the thigh. First, I felt burning and throbbing there. The pain travelled down to the ankle. That's when all types of pain came together: burning, tingling, aching, throbbing, shooting....

    I got really nervous when my foot felt cold. My husband assured me that my foot didn't feel cold, but I felt like it was cold. Something inside me warned me that my nerves were being damaging. Coldness meant a loss of circulation for me.
  • previous to surgery mine felt like this....in mid butt cheek it felt like something was torn inside and always ached, any time I had to roll over, get up from a chair or sit down in a chair it was horrendous, like pulling and tearing,had to yell out just about every time. Always got electirc shock when getting up and sometimes during walking.

    the same kind of pain continued into the back of my thigh with the added joy of stabbing sensation to the back outside of my thigh.

    it traveled down to the back of my knee where it only ached

    then to both sides of my calf where I felt aching all the time and numbness at times.

    into my outside ankle intially then my whole ankle. always terrible aching.

    bottom of my foot and outside toes, numbness and pins and needles with some burning.

    after my last ESI things got worse. developed pain in front of both of my thighs as well as groin and hip pain. All this was just severe aching.

    6 months post surgery thing are much better. no problems with feet. ankle only aches during and after hard day of work. still feel tightness in back of calf like theres a rope or band inside pullin tight and needs to be snipped. it will ache too during and after work. back of thigh still hurts while walking or sitting, sometimes lying. It feels like a sore muscle most of the time. Occasionally will get the stabbing and burning feeling in back outside of thigh while working. Having more issues with bum not just center cheek any more. now have what I describe as tightness right around the top of my "cheek divider":) also have alot of piercing type burning sensations all around this area.

    Nerve pain is so unperdictable. its all over the place. up and down in and out always morphing.just when you think you've experienced it all you get the joy of finding yet another pissed off nerve.
  • I have had back problems since I was 11 years old and fell backwards down two fights of concrete stairs, the real problems did not appear until I was 45 years old and then it started out as unbelievable pain around the tail bone, I could not walk more than 50 feet without having to stop for 10 min for the pain to slacken. After about 2 years the problem seemed to lessen and then it started again when I as 50 and has never stopped. I had lumbar disc decompression l4-l5-s1 4 years ago and it helped for about 2 years, the last mri i had showed that the problem has comeback with a vengeance. I am no longer a viable candidate for surgery, diabetic, heart problems, diabetic neuropathy, etc. So now i just stay home, if we go out to the store I drive my wife but can't go in, I could not make it from the car to the store. I still work (this has been a huge source of the problem as I sit at a computer terminal 10 - 12 hours a day), fortunately from home, my ability to drive is becoming questionable my right leg has gone dead on me a couple of times which resulted in falls that were very embarrassing.

    Most of the time my sciatica feels like my tailbone and surrounding area is in the jaws of a massive bear trap.

    I have a supply of hydrocodone but use that sparingly, it tends to make me somewhat goofier than normal and the taking it while writing computer software can yield some interesting results.

    This past week at my annual poke and prod with my primary care doctor we discussed this at length and he gave me a stack of lidocane patch samples, I have been using them for 2 days now and am amazed, i can actually sit without the pain that i normally experience.

    Of course this doesn't do much for the other leg/foot pain/cramps that keep me company 24/7.

    I was on gabapentin for 2 years for the neuropathy and finally ditched it as it really didn't do much and the risks outweighed the benefits.

    My feet go from feeling like they are in ice water to feeling like they are in an oven, I make my wife nuts when i wear 3 pairs of socks in the middle of summer. Most of the time my feet feel like they are wrapped in big blocks of jello, strange sensation, does not do much for ones balance either.

    I wish i could offer words of encouragement to others but that would be difficult, what I will say is people are adaptable and we learn to over come and adapt to the little curve balls that life tosses at us.

  • Picture a 36 inch razor blade inside your body. And when you make a wrong movement the blade sticks your nerves very sharply. Not pleasant.

    I just had surgery 3+ weeks ago and I'm having pains in the same areas. They are different than what I've described above but the last couple of days they've proved to me even more intense.
  • The first time mine started as intense pain from by buttock down the back of my thigh to my foot. The burning pain in my thigh for the last month or so leading up to my microdiscectomy was so bad I could not get relief anywhere except lying flat on my back on the floor. I had an ACL repair in '97 and kidney stones but the wrost thing about the back/sciatic pain besides the intensity is it is unrelenting. I had a micro D in Nov of '08 and for 7 months i was great until my back pain came back with some swelling a few weeks ago. Now I have tingling in the toes and some pain in the thigh at times. It is nothing like before yet but I'm going to the surgeon this week to get him to order a new MRI to see if it is a new herniation or scar tissue. If it is another hernia I'm already resigning myself to possible fusion. I'm 37, jog and lift weights (not heavy weights) to keep in shape and was progressing well until this latest setback.

    Micro D Nov '08
    next ??
  • Pre my first operation i just had problems with the soles of my feet. Felt like I was standing on cobble stones. This was resolved after my first operation (and since returned) but I now have terrible sciatica.

    my lower back aches, I have a stinging like 100 hot needles in my buttocks, really tight (tears in my eyes at times) pain in my hip / outer thigh then tingly down one thin strip in back of thigh. Lower outer leg numb, top of foot super sensitive, soles of feet tender and numb. Sometimes my toe feels like someone has stuck it in acid, pulses every 4 minutes or so.

    I never imagined sciatica could be quite so debilitating.
    I frequently walk like I am drunk, although I laugh it is not funny.

    Guys, I wish you all well and hopeful recoveries!
  • Sciatica for me has always felt like a deep rather sharp aching in my right buttocks. In the last couple of years the sciatica hasn't bothered much. Instead, I'll have aching pain down my leg and on the front of my shinbone which is aggrevated by sitting. Lying flat on my back anywhere but on my airbed causes my whole leg to hurt and it will go to sleep if I don't keep moving it.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • i described mine as a knife being slambed into my butt then slowly drug down to my ankle while fully insted felt like i could drop my pants and find a huge cut acually i did look lmao but iwas like i have to look before i go to the ER.
  • Well since I'm back because of my husbands pain I'll contribute to this thread.

    My sciatica when I had it was like a lightning bolt shooting down my leg. It changed and felt different depending on what stage I was in. Other times it felt like a hot knife stabbing me in the tailbone area. Then other times it felt like my muscles were too short for my left leg. I still have that a bit in my left calf muscle it's still tighter then my right leg but it doesn't hurt.

    Then 4 years ago about when this first happened I had horrible foot pain that felt like my foot was on fire and being pricked by pins and needles. A sheet even touching my foot was very painful.

    I've been through the many stages of sciatica. Glad it's mostly gone. I have slight numbness off and on in my foot and a tight calf muscle to remind me but that's it.
  • first you apply honey to a string of muscles. then you set loose 10,000 little fire ants. their stingers can reach deep into your muscles. after ten minutes of muscle penetrating assaults youre handcuffed so you cant shoo them away.. .then you give in and fall beaten to the floor your mouth wide open in distress and you prey for the too slow coming relief of rest.
  • There is sharp pain, numbness and sometimes a sudden weakness along the sciatic nerve. The pain can be felt in the back of the legs, feet and buttocks.sometimes, you can feel that there are small sharp needles on your muscles that is really painful.
  • It feels like someone has taken an ice pick and stabbed me repeatedly right where my butt meets my back and then dragged down.
  • [quote=Mmaem03bottom of my foot and outside toes, numbness and pins and needles with some burning.

    after my last ESI things got worse. developed pain in front of both of my thighs as well as groin and hip pain. All this was just severe aching.

    What is up with that? I've got the same thing--new sharp pain in the front of my thigh after ESI.

    My sciatica is a sharp pain & dull ache combo in my left hip; it also feels like something is twisted up in there.

    My PM thinks I have bilateral sacroilitis also, so maybe a steroid shot to the hip will eventually help. Right now, I'm on my 2d ESI. The first really helped, the 2d has made things worse thus far.
  • Many comments above adequately express what my sciatic pain feels like. But it mostly feels like a knife being shoved into the area where my left buttock meets the top of my thigh, roung the outside of my left knee and down to the back of my ankle. It is a sharp, dibilitating "takes my breath away" shock wave type of sensation with the feeling of the muscle or tendon being way too short - constant pulling.

  • Hello.

    I had a discectomy on July 19th L5-s1. I was having intense sciatic pain as described by everyone above. Burning, shooting, stabbing, etc. It got to the point that I could barely walk. After trying pain injection, acupuncture and chiropractic with no success, I decided to have surgery.

    The first week post-surgery was heaven. Absolutely no more sciatic pain. The back hurt a bit and it was a little difficult getting up and down but I could walk pain free.

    The morning of day 8, as I stood up from bed the shooting pain of sciatica was back with a vengeance. Once I got up and moving around, the pain was pretty much gone but if I turn a certain way I experience excruciating pain almost worse than the constant pain pre-surgery. The hardest is getting up from lying down and lying back down. I have to very gingerly ease myself into and out of bed. And when I am up and moving I have to be very careful not to "disturb" the nerve.

    I am now 10 days post-surgery and totally demoralized. My wife says I should be happy that the pain isn't always there like it used to be. I'm worried that I'll never heal and be normal.

    Has anyone who has had surgery experienced this? Thanks.
  • Bad sciatic pain is the devil....only way to describe it, its what you fear most in the darkest hour of suffering a back injury/outbreak.

  • takes a while for the area to settle down, I had the same operation 3 months ago its only now things are feeling ok, hang in there go easy on yourself it will be ok, best of luck
  • mine feels like my nerve is a few sizes too short for my leg. and i would describe my pain as feeling like there is a vacuum in the center of my foot and leg and everything is being sucked to the inside. plus the knife feeling like so many others have stated.
  • takes a while for the area to settle down, I had the same operation 3 months ago its only now things are feeling ok, hang in there go easy on yourself it will be ok, best of luck
  • I have always described mine like this. Imagine that someone had sliced you open from approx your tailbone, down across your rear and all the way down the outside of your leg and foot. Then they pour rubbing alchohol all up and down that area 27/7. That's how I describe the burning feeling of my bouts of sciatica. Then on top of that, as when I had jolting pains at the same time in my outside ankle area, instead of pins and needles, it felt as if someone was shooting nails into that area with a power nail gun. It was all severe burning, just like when I've burned my skin, but it's on the inside. I also had constant twitching all along the route of my pain. You could actually see the twitching.

    I ask people if they've ever gotten burned and/or had a severe toothache. I say the burning pain is like that of getting your skin burned and the throbbing pain is also like a severe toothache in a very large area.
  • well my pre op sciatica pain was the most unbearable debilitating pain i can ever imagine.ran from my left butt cheek down back of thigh around the side of calf and onto my end 3 toes!i could not stand with the pain burning,seering 3000x worse than child birth!!i could get no relief standing sitting lying whatever i did hurt!i was told to ice the area of the disc HA big mistake made it twice as bad!!old lady told me hot water bottle so i tried it to a certain extent it lifted the pain slightly and i bought heat patches that u stick to urself they were ok aswell.all this went on for 3 weeks then BAM everything just went numb instead!weird just left the dentist sort of numb u can feel it but it doesnt feel right.im now 16 days post op md for huge l5-s1 and still have the numbness occassional little sciatica moments but nothing like before!!.im not expecting feeling back in my numb bits for at least 6 mths due to the nerves being compressed for at least 8 mths prior to surgery.:)
  • my pain feel like a throbbing pain that varies between my left and right leg. my right leg in particular gets this sharp knife pain, mimics a stress fracture in my shin. anyone else find it hard sometimes to describe your pain?
  • Hi everyone,
    I found this thread checking out that my father's radiating pain down his quads to his knees is indeed sciatic as he doesn't describe it as 'nervy' - from reading your comments I'm clear that it is (he has disc problems too).
    I also wanted to share that I've been researching sciatic pain for hours now and that ginger, tumeric/curcumin, and sublingual methyl B12 all seem to be very very helpful. (Enzymatic Therapy bioactive B12 came up well on forum reviews).
    The 'Earth Clinic' website full of users' experiences of cures/solutions was very enlightening. Many people had huge relief just eating candied ginger all day!! Extraordinary but true. Epsom salt baths were well rated too but my father cannot get out of a bath these days.
    I feel optimistic about being able to help my father's excruciating and disabling pain for the first time in a long time.
    I hope this helps someone.
  • I have suffered sciatica on and off since I was a kid. It has always felt to me like someone stabbed me in the lower back, right above my buttocks. The burning pain then extends down my leg.

    I usually only get the pain on one side or the other. I get it in the right leg far more often than the left, but luckily they don't usually hurt at the same time.
  • Same here, started with light buttock stabbing, moved on to burning thigh, graduated to foot with pins and needles. Plus some more or less excruciating variations like 'bear jaw on my tailbone' (as someone describes further), crushed sacro-iliac joint area, calf feeling over-stretched...

    But, on the whole, like yours, my symptoms have gone from source point (lower back) down towards the foot. When I read that pain is supposed to move 'up' (towards the source) and that exercises which encourage it go this way are 'good'. I haven't found much further information on this, but it's food for thought...
  • I was vacuuming and my right leg started feeling warm with a slight ache. Within 30 minutes, I was lying on a friends bed moaning in excruciating pain. To me it felt as though my right leg from upper thigh to ankle had been shattered with a sledge hammer. Unbelievable. No pain killer can mask it. I tried extreme amounts of some of the strongest on the market. I have had it 5 times in the past 2 years and dread when I feel it coming on. Thank God it only lasts 6-10 hours. I have heard of people who live with this on a daily basis. Post Edited I could never handle that.

    Post Edited for inappropriate language by Moderator haglandc
  • To relief your pain, I recommend you to do a lot of exercises and physiotherapy it can help you relief your pain quickly.

    Take Care
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