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What is Lumbar Sciatica?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Lumbar sciatica is a physical condition caused by compression on the sciatic nerve in the lower back, buttocks, and/or legs. The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back, and it runs continuously down either leg. When the nerve gets compressed at any point throughout the back or legs, lumbar sciatica may occur. The nerve commonly gets compressed in the lower back where it originates, as there are several nerve endings that can be compressed in that area. Lumbar sciatica can cause sharp, shooting pain in either leg, buttocks, or lower back, and it may also cause numbness or tingling in the same areas.

A slipped disc is a common cause of lumbar sciatica. When individual vertebrae move out of position, the muscles around that vertebra may strain, causing compression on the sciatic nerve. The slipped vertebra itself can also push against the sciatic nerve, leading to lumbar sciatica. Spinal compression due to injury or day-to-day strain from sitting or standing for long periods of time may also lead to sciatic pain. Lumbar sciatica is common among athletes who often endure impacts to the body, which can lead to muscular compression or spinal movements.

The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back.
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back.

Stretching and exercising properly can often help alleviate lumbar sciatica. People who sit for long periods of time at work or at home may experience sciatic pain due to constant pressure being placed on the nerve, and standing up to walk around periodically throughout the day may be enough to alleviate the pain. Others may need to participate in a regular routine of stretches that target the buttocks, hamstrings, and lower back. A strength and mobility training routine will also benefit the sufferer, as stronger, more limber muscles will help support the spine and keep it from compressing onto the nerve. Core workouts are especially helpful in this capacity.

Medications are often prescribed to help kill the pain associated with sciatica. Anti-inflammatory medications may help the muscles relax around the nerve, thereby alleviating compression. In more severe instances, physical therapy may be necessary to help the sufferer fully recover from sciatic pain. The most severe cases of lumbar sciatica may require surgery to be completely cured; such cases are usually focused on repairing a herniated or otherwise damaged vertebral disc. These cases are rare because invasive surgery can cause just as many problems as it solves. More invasive techniques can be used, though they are again a last resort after stretching, physical therapy, and medication have all been exhausted.

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    • The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back.
      By: underdogstudios
      The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back.