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Difference Between Sciatica and Herniated Disc

The largest nerve in your body is the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve, which originates in the spine, has 5 nerve roots. This nerve, which runs down the backs of both legs, can malfunction, resulting in burning, pricking, pain when seated, and hardships walking.  There may also be soreness and discomfort in the feet.

These cushion-like structures (discs), which are stuffed with a fluid that is similar to a gel, safeguards your vertebrae (mall circular bones that form the spine). This gel is forced outside the disc’s rigid exterior during a herniation (to protrude through an abnormal body opening), placing pressure on the nerves accelerating discomfort.

The fact that sciatica (sciatic neuritis) can be treated swiftly is one of the most important distinctions between the two disorders.  Conversely, herniated discs (spinal disc herniation) demand more attention.


Both can cause mild to severe back pain.


Sciatica also termed as sciatic nerve dysfunction is a term for leg discomfort, constant pain, numbness, or tingling or prickling. It is brought on by pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is a sign of a health issue. It is not a disease in and of itself.

Herniated Disc

An issue with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) (intervertebral discs) that lie in the spaces between the vertebrae (mall circular bones that form the spine) that make up your spinal column is termed as a herniated disc.

Although a herniated disc (spinal disc herniation) can develop anywhere along the spine, it most frequently does so in the lower back. A herniated disc (a slipped, ruptured or bulging disc) may cause discomfort, numbness, or musculoskeletal weakness in an arm or leg, depending on where it is located. Some people with this condition do not show any symptoms, and get better on their own.

Difference between Sciatica and Herniated Disc



Sciatica or sciatic neuritis is a nerve discomfort in your leg accelerated by a condition in your lower back. Sciatica is termed in medicine as “radicular leg pain” (a type of pain that radiates (to proceed in a direct line from or toward a center) from your back and hip into your legs through the spine) since the pain travels down your spine from your back and hip into your legs.

Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc, also termed as spinal disc herniation (bulged, slipped or ruptured) cushion-like structures, which are stuffed with a liquid similar to gel, safeguard your vertebrae. This gel is forced outside the disc’s rigid outside envelop during a herniation, placing pressure on the nerves (a whitish fiber or bundle of fibers) and resulting in discomfort.



  • Dull pain
  • Burning and sharp pain
  • Worsening pain while sitting
  • Weakness when bending the knee
  • Abnormal reflexes
  • Tingling, loss of sensation and numbness
  • Difficulty moving legs and feet

Herniated Disc

  • Leg numbness
  • Arm or leg pain
  • Uncomfortable tingling and burning
  • Weakness
  • Cervical spine (neck)
  • Burning pain in the neck, arm, shoulders, or back



Sciatica is curable and in most of the cases with proper treatment, it goes away.

Herniated Disc

Herniated disc is mostly a permanent condition and if it is not detected and diagnosed, the condition can become worse and debilitating. 


The points of difference between Sciatica and Herniated Disc have been summarized as below:


Can a herniated disc feel like sciatica?

Yes, the most common cause of sciatica (radicular leg pain) is usually a herniated disc.

How to tell the difference between sciatic nerve pain and back pain?

It can take 3 to 6 months for sciatica to go away after an acute attack. In contrast to sciatica, lower back pain can result from a variety of conditions, including small mishaps, inadequate sleep, moving too swiftly, and others.

Can sciatica be so bad you can’t walk?

Yes. Sciatica can be really bad when all its symptoms show up together and make it extremely difficult for you to walk. 

What is the straight leg test for sciatica?

The patient will be lying on his or her back for this examination, elevating one leg at a time while keeping the other flat or bent at the knee. Sciatica is typically diagnosed when the affected leg hurts when it is lifted.

Can a doctor do anything for sciatica pain?

A corticosteroid injection into the region surrounding the painful nerve root may be beneficial in some cases. One injection frequently alleviates pain. In 1 year, up to 3 may be administered.

How do you get immediate relief from sciatica pain?

For immediate relief from sciatica pain, ice therapy and alternating heat that reduce inflammation and alleviate pain are very beneficial. 

How does a doctor test for sciatica?

A doctor diagnoses sciatica through Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans

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References :

[0]Chiu, C. C., Chuang, T. Y., Chang, K. H., Wu, C. H., Lin, P. W., & Hsu, W. Y. (2015). The probability of spontaneous regression of lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review. Clinical rehabilitation, 29(2), 184-195.

[1]Ito, T., Takano, Y., & Yuasa, N. (2001). Types of lumbar herniated disc and clinical course. Spine, 26(6), 648-651.

[2]Koes, B. W., Van Tulder, M. W., & Peul, W. C. (2007). Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica. Bmj, 334(7607), 1313-1317.

[3]Ropper, A. H., & Zafonte, R. D. (2015). Sciatica. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(13), 1240-1248.

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