The sciatic nerve begins in the low back, goes across the buttocks and down the legs. Sciatica is the term given to the radiating pain that comes from damage to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be caused by a sudden injury such as a traffic accident, disease, or age-related spinal changes such as a herniated disk, bone spur, or narrowing of the spine known as spinal stenosis.
These conditions can cause inflammation and pain that travels from one side of the back, through the buttock and down the back of the affected leg. The pain can be mild, burning or severe and cause numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg or foot.
The risk of sciatica increases with poor posture, excess weight, inactivity and poor body mechanics. To protect your back and minimize risk, be active, exercise and maintain good posture while working or sitting. Remember to bend at the knees and lift with your legs. Don’t twist and lift at the same time.
Sciatica is common and usually resolves over time. To help relieve pain, lie on your back, bend one knee up while keeping the foot flat on the floor, place the opposite ankle on that knee and gently stretch.
If your sciatica lasts several days, gets worse or is severe, see your doctor. Treatments for sciatica include anti-inflammatory medications, muscle-relaxants, pain-relieving injections, physical therapy and surgery.