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Four Things to Know About Sciatica


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  1. Sciatica refers to the most common symptom of sciatic nerve root irritation. Sciatica is a pain that can occur when a spinal nerve root in the lumbar portion of the spine is irritated. L3/L4, L4/L5, L5/S1 are the specific nerve root levels in the lumbar spine that supply the sciatic nerve. When irritated, the sciatic nerve will produce what is typically described as a sharp or burning pain that extends down the back or side of the thigh, usually even extending down to the ankle or foot. People often also experience numbness or tingling. Common causes of Sciatica include spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal column, herniated discs, and degenerative disc disease.


  1. Pain in sciatic distribution was first known and recorded by ancient Greek and Roman physicians. Sciatica was originally treated by drinking a mixture of sweet marjoram, rosemary leaf, wine, and olive oil and for more serious cases it was recommended that leeches, hot coals, skin hooks, or blood letting be used. It was not until the middle of the 18th century that nerve or sciatic pain was further understood and identified as a separate entity from arthritic pain.


  1. A wide variety of non-surgical treatment options and interventions are available for sciatica. Physical therapy is often implemented because it is important for strengthening muscles and taking pressure off the spine. There are also medications used that work at the nerve to help with the sharp and burning pains produced by the sciatic nerve. Finally epidural steroid injections play a very important role in the treatment of sciatica. They consist of a steroid medication injection into the covering around a spinal nerve. This provides lasting relief by reducing the amount of inflammation and irritation surrounding that nerve.

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