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Is My Back Pain Sciatica?

Sciatica pain can feel like electricity shooting down the back of your leg, even into the foot or toes. Some people have numbness or tingling, while others experience sciatica as dull pain or a burning sensation. Coughing, sneezing, and laughing may make the pain more intense.

Your lower back or leg pain may not be linked to sciatica. See your doctor to find out reason for your pain.

What Causes Sciatica Pain

Sitting for long periods of time

If you drive a vehicle or sit at a desk most of the day, you could be at risk for sciatica. Take frequent breaks, and get up and move as much as possible.

Carrying heavy loads

Physical labor such as carrying heavy loads can cause pressure on the spine and lead to a pinched nerve. To reduce pressure on your spine, practice proper lifting techniques.


Being overweight can put extra pressure on the spine. The stress of that extra weight can lead to sciatica. Maintain a healthy weight to help decrease your chances of developing sciatica.


As you age, daily activity and regular wear and tear can weaken the spine.


Would it surprise you to know that things like keeping a cell phone in your back pocket and wearing high heels or tight-fitting pants can contribute to sciatica pain?

The cell phone in your back pocket can irritate your muscles and may lead to a compressed sciatic nerve and pain.

The way your feet are positioned in high heels can cause the hamstring muscle to stretch. The sciatic nerve runs along the hamstring, so an irritated hamstring can affect the sciatic nerve.

Any piece of clothing that cuts off circulation can compress the nerves and cause pain.

“It is important to learn the cause of your sciatica, because different causes will lead to different treatment options.” says Matt El-Kadi, MD, PhD, director of the UPMC Passavant Spine Center. “The first step is to see a doctor for an examination.”