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What is it

Sciatica is a back disorder that involves the sciatic nerve which is actually a group of nerves (the body’s longest) bound in one nerve sheath that runs from the lower back through the buttock and thigh to the knee (where it branches) and down into the foot When pressure is placed on this nerve, pain may be felt from the lower back to the toes. The pain from sciatica most often strikes people in their 40s and 50s.


  • Pain which can be dull or intense that often starts in the hip or buttock and radiates down through the lateral thigh and leg, sometimes reaching the foot. The pain is frequently only on one side, becomes more painful with movement, and is worse at night.
  • Pain may also be aggravated by laughing, sneezing, straining on the toilet, and coughing.
  • Weakness and numbness in the legs.

What causes it

It’s not age that causes sciatica but probably a combination of other factors: work that requires repetitive lifting, sudden strain in lifting a heavy object, or constant exposure to mechanical vibrations (for example, long hours behind the wheel of a car or truck). Severe low-back pain, including sciatica, also shows a high correlation with job dissatisfaction and depression though whether depression aggravates the back pain or is the result of it is hard to determine. Some studies have also suggested that cigarette smoking may be a risk factor. You can also have sciatica without any of these risk factors.

You may be a healthy, happy person who never lifts anything and yet, for no apparent reason, suffer a sudden attack when you bend or turn slightly.

Some experts blame slipped, or herniated, disks for irritating the sciatic nerve. Disks are the fibrous padding between the vertebrae; when a disk “slips,” or herniates, it bulges and can press on the sciatic nerve. Other researchers blame the piriformis muscle in the buttocks the muscle that allows you to lift your leg side-ways. If inflamed by injury or overexertion, the piriformis muscle can press against the sciatic nerve.

What if you do nothing

In about half of all cases, the pain from sciatica resolves spontaneously within four weeks.

Home remedies

Sciatica often improves with only the simplest self-care measures. As the pain diminishes, it’s all right to sit up and begin to move around as long as you avoid bending or any strenuous activity. Let your own discomfort level be your guide.

Relieve the pain

You may want to try over- the-counter NSAIDs aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen or acetaminophen for five to seven days.


If the pain is severe, a day or two in bed may bring welcome relief by helping calm down an angry nerve root. Two days in bed, studies have shown, will usually do as much good as a week. Find a comfortable position on a firm mattress: lie on your unaffected side with your affected leg straight and supported by several pillows under the knee.

Try heat

Apply a heating pad to the affected buttock. A hot bath, shower, sauna, or whirlpool may also provide some relief.

Try cold

Apply an ice pack to the sore buttock for 15 minutes several times a day.

Avoid heavy lifting

When your back is sore or painful, avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds. When you do lift, make sure your knees are bent and that you lift with your arms, not with your back muscles, keeping the object close to your body.


Strengthen your muscles

Though poor posture is not known to cause sciatica, strong abdominal and back muscles which can be developed through exercise can help keep your back healthy.

Exercise regularly

A regular exercise routine might be particularly important if your job puts you at risk for back pain.

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