What is Sciatica?
Despite its name, sciatica isn’t always related to a specific injury along the sciatic nerve (in fact, pain that comes from injuries to this nerve is relatively rare). Instead, it’s a general way to identify pain in the lower back and upper leg.
A Closer Look at the
You’ve likely heard of the sciatic nerve. Not only is it located at the crucial juncture between the spine and the legs, but it’s also the largest nerve in the human body. It runs all the way from the lumbar spine (AKA the lower spine) down the glutes, hips, and all the way to below the knees on each leg.
The sciatic nerve has five main roots, all of which branch off into the left and right leg. Once these branches reach below the knee, they branch off even further into smaller offshoots that continue down the calf all the way to the ankle and foot.
Symptoms of Sciatica
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica Risk Factors
Are some people at greater risk of developing sciatica than others? The short answer is yes, although sciatica can also arise as a result of unpredictable things like accidents and injuries. If any of the following criteria apply to you, you may be at a higher risk of developing sciatica:
- Age over 50. With age comes higher degrees of wear and tear on the skeletal and nervous systems, which places people at a higher risk of sciatica.
- Being overweight or obese, which can place a greater strain on the skeletal and nervous system.
- Sedentary lifestyles, which can cause weaker muscles and place greater strain on the lower spine (especially for those who work desk jobs or otherwise spend the majority of their day sitting).
- Overexertion. On the other end of the spectrum, those with labor-intensive jobs may be placing greater strain on their spine and the nerves/muscles surrounding it.
- Illnesses that affect the bones and nerves, like arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
- Leg mobility limitations
- Numbness in the legs and/or feet
- Increasingly severe back pain
- Weakness in the lower back, glutes, and legs
Your recommended sciatica treatment will vary depending on a few factors, including:
The intensity of your pain
Your mobility limitations (or lack thereof)
If you’re experiencing sciatica, avoid potentially injuring yourself further by speaking to a medical professional before doing any at home treatments.
1. Light stretching with proper form
2. Light exercise to bolster cardiovascular activity, improve muscular strength, and reduce inflammation
When to See a Doctor
- Numbness or tingling in your hips, legs, or feet
- Stiffness or loss of mobility in your legs or feet
- Reduced control of your bladder or bowel movements
- Persistent pain or discomfort that radiates from your back to your legs
- Professional care is the only way to prevent sciatica from worsening and to reduce pain, stiffness, and discomfort in the long term.