Sciatica refers to symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel down through the buttock and the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.
Sciatica is often characterized by constant pain on only one side of the buttock or leg (it rarely can occur in both legs), pain that is worse when sitting, leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing (vs. a dull ache), weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot, or a sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk.
Spinal Stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, can occur in the lumbar and the cervical spine.
In lumbar stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, or choked, and this can cause symptoms of sciatica (tingling, weakness or numbness from the low back and into the buttocks and legs) with certain activities or positions. Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms typically develop slowly over time, coming and going, as opposed to continuous pain, occurring during certain activities (such as walking) and/or positions (such as standing upright), and being relieved by rest (sitting or lying down) and/or any flexed forward position.
Although occasionally leg pain and stenosis symptoms will come on acutely, they generally develop over the course of several years. The longer a patient with spinal stenosis stands or walks, the worse the leg pain will get.