Is the pain in my buttock sciatica? (AKA butt pain)

Is the pain in my buttock sciatica?” As an Edinburgh osteopath, and a past sufferer of sciatica, I can give you a pretty good answer. But let’s clear up the obvious first…

Where is my buttock (AKA the butt)?

Your buttock is the area between your lower back and the back of the upper thigh.  In anatomical terms, it’s the bit between your iliac crest (top of the hip bone) and the crease at the bottom of your bottom. It’s predominantly made up of your your gluteal muscles, and fat.

What is sciatica?

I’ve gone over this many times before. But here it is again.  Sciatica is a description and not a diagnosis.  It describes pain and/or pins and needles in the distribution of your sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve doesn’t directly supply sensation to the skin.  But it does through the “terminal branches” that come from it.  And these are the superior gluteal nerve, the inferior gluteal nerve, the sural nerve, deep fibular nerve, superficial fibular nerve and the medical calcaneal branches of the tibial nerve.

What is pain?

It’s amazing I haven’t written more on this topic.  It’s covered heavily in my latest book for lower back pain sufferers.  And there’s a lot on it in our online course for lower back pain and sciatica.  So, the text-book definition of pain is “An unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”  Anyone who works in the field of pain agrees that this is currently the most useful definition.

So, is it sciatica?

Assuming you have pain in this region of your body, how do I answer your question “Is the pain in my buttock sciatica?” What are the possible causes of pain in the buttock?  Which are most common?  Is sciatica likely?

What are the possible causes of pain in the buttock?

You could strain a muscle.  Although this could still cause “non-nerve compression sciatica” (see blog on this), I would classify this as a strained muscle rather than sciatica.  However, straining a gluteal muscle isn’t actually that common in practice. I rarely see it.  Perhaps because these are really big strong muscles and most people don’t do enough strenuous exercise to really strain one.  You’re far more likely to strain a hamstring muscle.  A strain to the very top of the hamstring – where it attaches to your “sitting bone” – could cause buttock pain.  There are other obscure causes of pain in the buttock, but they’re so rare that I’m not going to worry you with them!

Which are the most common causes of pain in the buttock?

All sorts of lower back problems can cause buttock pain.  And lower back pain is exceptionally common.  Would this be classed as sciatica?  Yes. If it’s a pain and it’s in your buttock, and that part of your buttock is supplied by the sciatic nerve, it could be described as sciatica.  If you have lower back pain AND pain in your buttock, it’s 99% likely I’d call that sciatica.

Want to know more about the treatment of the two types of sciatica? Then read this.  OR if you’d just like to book an appointment with an Edinburgh osteopath, or an “osteopath near me“, click the link.

If you want self help for low back pain / sciatica click the link.

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