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Pain from a sciatica episode can range from discomfort to debilitating. Sciatica pain can affect your lower back and other parts of your body along the nerve’s path, from the spine to the foot, on either side of your body.

Sciatica may resolve itself in a few weeks or months but leaving it untreated may have serious long-range consequences.

Your sciatic nerves branch out from the lower spine and run down each leg, passing through the hips. Pain involving the sciatic nerve, known as sciatica, is commonly caused due to a herniated disc or spinal canal narrowing, due to causes such as bone spurs.

Compression of the sciatic nerve causes a variety of symptoms that may occur anywhere along the nerve’s path. Typically only one nerve and hence, one lower extremity is affected, but there are a few cases when the nerves on both sides get compressed.

Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica pain begins in the lower back and radiates down, through the buttock and hip, to the leg. The sensations can range from sharp, burning pain to tingling and numbness.

What happens if sciatica pain is left untreated?

If you leave severe sciatica pain untreated, other serious complications may develop. These may include –

Permanent damage to the sciatic nerve

When nerve compression persists, or if the condition underlying the compression in the sciatic nerve worsens, it may result in permanent damage. This may occur because branches of the nerve may malfunction or die. Worsening damage may intensify pain rendering pain relief treatments less effective.

Loss of motor control and sensation

While you’re dealing with the sciatica pain, you might lose function if you don’t seek treatment. Tingling, and numbness may increase with more nerve damage because pain signals from injuries to your feet and legs may be interrupted.

The sciatic nerve also carries signals controlling muscles, so you may experience leg muscle weakness or other problems involving muscles.

Bladder and bowel incontinence

It is rare but sciatic nerve compression may also result in loss of control over bladder and bowel muscles.