Dear Doctors,
I have had periodic low back pain for several years now. I work construction and expected this to be normal for the type of work that I do. Three weeks ago, however I started having pain in my right buttocks that has since traveled down my right leg into my foot. Someone told me that this is sciatica. What is sciatica? Is it serious, and can you help?

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It originates from vertebra in the low back and travels down the leg into the foot. Sensations and muscle control throughout the lower body can be traced through the sciatic nerve. A person could have sciatica from an internal or external impingement. An internal impingement can be due to a slipped disc, a bone spur, disc degeneration and arthritis. An external impingement could be due to muscles putting pressure on the nerve, and inflammatory syndromes. Early signs of sciatica, are tingling, stinging, burning sensations in the areas directly supplied by the sciatic nerve; i.e., hips, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet. People who have sciatica often times have a history of intermittent low back pain and / or muscular weakness. Sciatica can be brought on by a single accidental stress to the lower spinal-pelvic area or it may develop gradually from a pattern of stresses to the low back. The misnomer is that patients in who engage in physically demanding jobs are more prone to sciatica. This is not necessarily true. Repetitive insults to the lower spine along with de-conditioning is usually the cause and individuals in sitting professions are just as prone to having sciatica as construction workers. Most of the time the “insults” are small but they add up, causing vertebra to become restricted and sets the stage for a “Main Event” which may not only cause sciatica but could result in a more serious spinal problem.

A person that has sciatica should be evaluated promptly by a Chiropractic Physician, and should limit excessive bending, lifting , twisting and turning. Prolonged sitting should also be avoided, since sitting puts more pounds of pressure per square inch on the lower discs of the spine.

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