Another MS Symptom: Sciatic Nerve Pain at a Whole New Level

Another MS Symptom: Sciatic Nerve Pain at a Whole New Level

Faith of the Mustard Seed
Just when I thought I had experienced every multiple sclerosis (MS) symptom possible, another one emerges: sciatic nerve pain. It can happen to anyone, but it is also associated with MS.

A couple of months ago, I woke up with a sharp knife-type pain on the upper back side of my left leg. All I could wonder was “What is MS doing to me now?”

Usually doing stretches while lying on my bed alleviated any sciatic nerve pain I had. I bent my left leg up to meet my chest, then lifted it over my body. Next I held my left foot with my right hand for about 20 seconds. Then I completed the move by stretching my leg out straight and flexing my foot.

I learned to live with sciatic pain. When it showed up, I did my stretches, or walked it off, but now it is moving in a whole new direction. The sciatic nerve, by the way, is the longest in the body, running from the lower back to the tops of the feet.

The other day I went to get up out of my chair, and had the worst burning pain in the same area where the sharp pain was. It felt as if someone were poking me with a red-hot poker! It attacks me every time I go to stand, and sometimes when I’m trying to sit.

A Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand article, “Multiple Sclerosis and Pain,” written by Anne McAuley and by Dr. Rosemary White, explores a theory on what causes the sciatic pain in MS. The article says most pain with MS is due to immobility or poor posture instead of damaged nerves. The article says immobility, or sitting in a wheelchair for a long time, puts pressure on the nerves in the back of the legs that generates sciatic pain.

The contention that pain is related to immobility or poor posture sounds reasonable to me. In fact, I was sitting in my wheelchair for almost three hours before this week’s burning sensation appeared. Being in the wheelchair for that long was not the best scenario for me. I should have been in a regular chair, and moving around from time to time, instead of sitting that long.

The article says proper seating and elevating your legs when sitting can help prevent sciatic pain. Of course it is best to check with your doctor first to rule out other conditions that could be causing this symptom.

Perhaps by being more mobile, using correct posture and being aware of the pressure on the back of our legs, we can avert another painful symptom of multiple sclerosis.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


  1. Sarah Athey says:

    Hi Debi I have wondered for years if sciatica is anything to do with MS! I have suffered terribly on and off since I was 18 which was around the time of my first relapse, thank you for this article

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Sarah, I’m sorry you suffer also! You’re welcome for the article and thank-you for your comments! Debi

      • Jimmy Grayson says:

        Hi Sarah I am Jimmy in North Carolina and I was diagnosed with Ms at the age of 29 I didn’t have any problems for years now I’m in a wheelchair and have been for the last 7 or 8 years and then I started thinking I was done with all of my symptoms suddenly started feeling this sensationly Hot burning pain damn my right leg and today finally I noticed that starts in an area that I remember from ology class is the sciatic nerve and I looked it up online and I was right but probably comes from sitting in this wheelchair I usually have to just endure the pain for several minutes and then it goes away and I still feel that hot sensation in the right side of my lower back down to my heels and still feel a little numbing in my leg and then it slowly goes away and then I keep getting terrified it’s going to start up again and it’s just feels like what a stroke would feel like almost if it hit me that way I’m a little more relieved now that I know what it is and what I have to do about it but holding my leg up like you said seems to work okay I just wish you would stop that you take care and I wish you only the best, Jim

  2. Kristin Hardy says:

    Hi Debi, yes, been battling this myself for about a year and a half. Physiatrist pointed out that atrophied glutes and hamstrings mean that sitting puts more pressure on the sciatic nerve. It’s not just the wheelchair – lying in bed on your back puts pressure on these nerves, as well. I’ve had good results by making sure to stand up for at least 45 minutes first thing in the morning to relieve nerve compression, and then periodically throughout the day. Anything you can do to increase muscle mass is also helpful. Talk to your wheelchair folks about getting a cushion that has an air bladder in it to relieve pressure. Good luck with it – it truly sucks.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Kristin, I agree with you, it can be very painful! You give great advice and thanks for sharing! Debi

  3. Kel says:

    Finally! I’ve been suffering with this for 20 years! My MS Doc kept saying it’s not due to MS. I was mobile at the time, but as soon as that burning & excruciating pain started I was down. I can’t walk more than 2 or 3 ft without having to sit down because of the pain. I’ve had MRI’s, CT, X-rays, & nothing ever showed up. So once again I was looked at like there’s no reason for you to be hurting. This could finally be an answer.

  4. Katie says:

    Omg this so sound’s like me
    I was diagnosed 12yrs ago with sciatica and now i feel like i have it in my arms for the past year my doctor refuses to do refer me for mri but I’m getting sick of chewing painkillers any more advice?

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