Sciatica is a condition that develops when the discs – small, spongy structures located between the bones of your spine, or vertebrae – become squeezed, resulting in local inflammation that presses on nerves as they exit the spine in the lower back. Sciatica is one of the most common causes of pain in the low back, resulting in dull aching or sharp pains that can radiate into the buttocks and legs. Sciatica often develops in people who must stand or sit for long periods of time, as well as those who use their back all day long at work, those who lift heavy loads without using support or proper lifting technique, people who are overweight and people who sleep on unsupportive mattresses. Pregnancy can also cause sciatica as the body's center of balance shifts with the expanding belly.
The most recognizable symptom of sciatica is pain and aching that radiate from the low back through the buttock and into the leg. Pain can range from a dull aching to a stabbing, electricity-like pain, and it may be accompanied by numbness and tingling, as well as weakness in the muscles.
Although sciatica is one of the most common causes of pain in the lower back, there are other issues that can cause painful symptoms as well. Spinal injuries, muscle strain and spasm, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis (a condition that causes the spinal channel to narrow), and spondylolisthesis, a condition that occurs when one vertebra slips forward over another, resulting in pinched nerves and pain. During your initial exam, the cause of your symptoms will be determined so your therapy can be as effective as possible.
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