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My sciatica is flared up again!”

Sciatica is a commonly used term I’m sure you’ve heard tossed around by friends, family, and coworkers. But what is sciatica? 

When people refer to sciatica, they are typically referring to pain that travels anywhere from the low back or buttock to the toes. This pain is usually described as electricity, sharp, shooting, numb, or tingling. The pain may be worse with sitting, bending, coughing, walking, or a number of other factors. Sciatica is often used as an umbrella term for what could actually be several different pathologies, such as:

  • Nerve entrapment, or a pinching of the sciatic nerve, often in the buttock. Other nerves in the leg can be pinched causing similar symptoms in different areas. 

  • Stenosis, or a narrowing of the vertebrae causing pinching on nerve roots in the spine

  • Arthritis or spondylosis 

  • Disc bulge/herniation can press on nerve roots at the spine

  • Hamstring injury 

  • Infection or abscess

  • Global neurological pathology like stroke or MS

  • Gynecological issues

(This photo shows a disc bulge [red] pressing on a spinal nerve [yellow].)

Because there are so many various causes to sciatic pain, courses of treatment may also vary tremendously. There is no one generic set of exercises or a magic stretch that will cure or prevent sciatica. However, across the board, maintaining good mobility through your spine, consistently working on improving core strength and control, stretching regularly, and maintaining an active lifestyle will all help to fend off these pesky symptoms.

Good news! Physical therapists are well-equipped to diagnose and treat your pain, or refer you to the appropriate specialist if necessary. Stay well, don’t forget to stretch, and make time for yourself to be active. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at BHPT. We’re here for you.

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