Sciatica is the term used to describe pain that radiates from the lower back down the legs along the sciatic nerve. Most people who experience sciatica are affected on only one side of their bodies. Sciatica most commonly occurs among people in their 40’s or 50’s, and affects men more often than women. Other risk factors include obesity, prolonged sitting, and diabetes.
Herniated discs or bone spurs that press against or pinch the sciatic nerve are the most common cause of sciatica. In rare cases, sciatica may be caused by tumors that press against the nerve, or as a result of nerve damage caused by certain diseases, like diabetes. Trauma to the spine may also result in sciatica.
Sciatica originates in the lower back and radiates through the buttocks and down the back of the leg, and can range from mild to severe. Some patients also experience numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness. Severe cases may be associated with a loss of bowel or bladder control.
Sciatica usually responds well to simple, at-home treatments, such as hot or cold packs, stretching, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Exercise is important, as inactivity will exacerbate symptoms. For persistent pain, treatments include prescription medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections that suppress the inflammation of the sciatic nerve. In severe cases, where there is significant weakness or loss of bowel and bladder control, surgery to remove the bone spur or herniated disc may be necessary to provide relief.
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