Sciatica refers to pain involving a problem with the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the human body that extends from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. While in most cases no cause can be found for sciatic pain, it can be caused by a ruptured intervertebral disk, an injury, or narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the nerve, also known as spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of sciatica include pain, weakness, numbness and tingling, typically affecting only one side of the body. Mild pain usually goes away on its own, but if at-home remedies such as cold and hot packs, stretching and/or over-the-counter medications fail to ease symptoms, or if pain lasts longer than one week, a visit to a doctor is recommended. Individuals who have sudden, severe pain in these areas and/or difficulty controlling their bowels or bladder should seek immediate medical attention.
For individuals with severe pain, doctors may order imaging tests including X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans to assess the cause and treatment for sciatic pain. Treatments may include medications, physical therapy, steroid injections or, in severe cases, surgery to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve.
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