A Moment of Science

Sciatica

Have you ever felt pain in your legs, or more of an uncomfortable tingling sensation really, up and down your leg from top to bottom?

herniated_disc

Photo: gogogadgetscott (flickr)

It's most commonly caused by a herniated disc in the lower spine, meaning a disc protrudes and presses against the roots of the nerve.

Have you ever felt pain in your legs, or more of an uncomfortable tingling sensation really, up and down your leg from top to bottom?

Sounds like you could have sciatica.

Sciatica simply means that your sciatic nerve is irritated. It’s most commonly caused by a herniated disc in the lower spine, meaning a disc protrudes and presses against the roots of the nerve. This pressure can cause pain, tingling, or numbness that begins as high as the lower back or hip and that extends through the leg, as far as the foot.

Only about 10-20% of people with sciatica require surgery. Chances are that the problem will go away on its own over time.

In many cases, sciatica symptoms can be helped by avoiding sitting for several days and instead, alternating lying down with going for short walks. A cold pack on the lower back can also relieve pain, as well as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. However, see a doctor first, to confirm that you do indeed have sciatica, as well as to identify the source of the problem. Other causes of sciatica include arthritis and sports injuries, and further treatment of sciatica depends upon the cause.

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