What Is the Difference Between Sciatica & Arthritis?

April 6, 2022
8 min read

At one time or another, you may have experienced pain in your back or your limbs, maybe with swelling around the joints. You may find it hard to move without pain, and you are not sure how to treat the condition.

Many people will assume they are suffering from sciatica or arthritis when they experience these symptoms, but there are some important differentiating factors between the two conditions and the treatment for them.

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Do You Have Arthritis or Sciatica?
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?
What are the treatments for Sciatica and Arthritis?

Do You Have Arthritis or Sciatica?

Arthritis and sciatica can both present as back pain, but there are distinct symptoms associated with each. Determining which set of symptoms you’re experiencing may give you a better idea of which ailment you’re dealing with, though of course, you’ll need to consult a doctor to get an official diagnosis.

The type of pain you feel is likely a clue as to what condition you’re dealing with. Arthritis pain tends to be duller and makes you feel stiff. Pain from sciatica is often a sharp, shooting type.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

Most commonly, sciatica is a pain that can be felt in the lower back and any part of the body below this. It tends to be a radiating pain and is often only felt on one side of the body – for example, it may start in the lower back and radiate out to the left leg.

Sciatica is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve which runs from the back, through the hips, and into the legs on each side. Compression affects the ability of the nerve to transmit signals correctly, resulting in the misfiring of the pain signal. When the nerve is working correctly, the pain signal is only sent when there is a problem in the body – when suffering from sciatica, any location along the nerve can cause the sensation of pain even if there is nothing physically wrong with that location on the body.

What are the Symptoms of Arthritis?

There are many types of arthritis with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Whichever type of arthritis is causing the problem, the joints of the body are the target.

Osteoarthritis is more common in people in their mid-40s or older, and a higher proportion of women suffer from it than men. However, it can occur at any age and may come about because of an injury or other conditions.
This type of arthritis damages the cartilage in the joints, leading to swelling, stiffness, and pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis once again affects more women than men, and usually begins to affect people between the ages of 40 and 50. As with other types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints, but this time it is the immune system of your body that causes the problem.

By wrongly targeting the joints, the immune system causes pain and swelling. The damage can become severe over time, resulting in damage to the bone and cartilage.

While you may think of the joints in your body in terms of knees and hips, arthritis can also affect the joints in your hands, arms, and spine.

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What are the treatments for Sciatica and Arthritis?

The initial treatment chosen by most patients for the relief of both sciatica and arthritis is to use a painkiller. This can help to reduce swelling and make it more comfortable for the patient to move, but it only treats the symptoms of the issue rather than looking at the cause.

Sciatica is caused by a nerve under compression or otherwise being irritated. This is often from a misalignment of the spine, so while painkillers will stop the pain from being so bad, the problem remains – and once you stop taking the painkillers, the issue will be the same as before.

Treatment for sciatica includes the use of anti-inflammatories. For many people, that is enough to help them heal within a few weeks.

If your pain is bad enough that you’ve sought professional help, however, you likely need extra help. Treatment options for sciatica include:

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Weight management

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Being overweight puts a lot of pressure on the joints and other organs, causing inflammation that eventually depletes vital molecules in the body such as glutathione and ATP, powerful antioxidants that mop up free radicals that destroy tissues like the nerves and cartilage within the joints.

Chronic Inflammation is the cause of wear and tear within the joint that allows the bone to rub against each other or swollen joints or bones causing excruciating pains.

As long as the root cause of inflammation is still there, no treatment will be effective except the weight is taken care of and that’s the reason why many people have used several products with no significant results even painkillers might stop working.

Losing weight will ease you, make you feel lighter and more active with a stronger immune system. Weight loss improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.

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With Meta-Switch you can burn calories as much as you take in without extra physical activities like exercise, just like people that eat more and are still slim – in good shape.

How do you know if you are overweight?

Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

For adults, WHO defines overweight and obesity as follows:

An adult who has a BMI of 25-29.9 is overweight, and an adult who has a BMI over 30 is obese. A person with a BMI of 18.5-24.9 has a normal weight. A person is morbidly obese (extreme obesity) if his or her BMI is over 40.

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:

Class 1: BMI of 30 to 35
Class 2: BMI of 35 to 40
Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. 
Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as “severe” obesity.

*Another easier method to tell if you’re at a healthy weight is from your waist size. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches in women and greater than 40 inches in men is said to be overweight.

“Waist circumference above these numbers indicates excessive belly fat, a dangerous type of fat surrounding vital organs, which increases one’s risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the metabolic syndrome.”

To measure your waist circumference, all you need is a measuring tape.

“Place it on the top of your hip bone, bringing it around your body and level with your belly button”.

Resist the temptation to suck in and don’t make the tape too tight. An inaccurate reading only hurts you.

Physical therapy

This is the most common — and generally most effective — treatment for sciatica, says Dr. Huffstutter. The main goal is to take pressure off the sciatic nerve by strengthening and stretching the surrounding muscles. “Physical therapy can be invaluable; it’s really hard to learn how to do the right exercise without it,” he says.

Epidural steroid injections

“Physical therapy is very helpful, but sometimes the pain is too severe, and the patient feels they can’t do it,” says Dr Barsoum.

In that case, the first step might be to inject inflammation-reducing medication directly into the epidural space that surrounds the nerves in the spine.

Oral medication

Your doctor might suggest using anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or even a narcotic medication if the pain is very severe. These drugs can make you feel a lot better and give your body a chance to heal.


Although it is not common, if you have a herniated disk that hasn’t healed on its own (as it usually does) or you have a loss of control of urine or stool, then surgery might be in order. “More often than not, a patient can get completely better without surgery,” says Dr. Barsoum.


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