What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is nerve pain that can occur throughout the lower back, buttocks, hips, and down the legs. This pain may be mild or severe and cause a variety of sensations, including anything from sharp or shooting pain to a burning or electric feeling. It can also occur constantly or intermittently and worsen based on posture, movement, and time spent sitting or standing.

The primary cause of sciatica is injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. This nerve is most commonly injured due to a herniated or slipped disk. However, injury to the sciatic nerve can occur in a few different ways, including:

  • Degenerative disk disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pressure from tumors
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Cauda equina syndrome

Several risk factors, such as aging, obesity, prior injuries to the lower back or spine, pregnancy, or a job that requires significant physical exertion such as heavy lifting, may increase your likelihood of experiencing sciatica. However, these risks may be reduced through adjustments to your lifestyle and activities, such as:

Improving your posture: Improper form while exercising or lifting heavy weights, as well as poor posture while sitting, standing, or moving can increase your risk of sciatica.

Following a regular diet and exercise routine: A healthy, balanced diet and a workout routine that incorporates aerobic and strength exercises can help you manage sciatica risk factors such as obesity and diabetes. Exercises that build core strength can be especially helpful, as a stronger core provides more support for your lower back.

Avoiding tobacco: Tobacco products such as cigarettes contain nicotine, which causes spinal tissue, vertebral disk, and bone damage over time that can impact the sciatic nerve.

You can find effective treatment for most cases of sciatica from specialists such as chiropractors and physical therapists. However, for severe cases, you may need to work with a neurologist to diagnose the most likely cause and find the right treatment approach. You can find a doctor to treat sciatica at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.