Mature woman holding lower back in pain

Sciatica is a broad term to describe nerve pain, but it often occurs when a nerve root in the lumbar spine becomes compressed. In sciatica originating from the lumbar spine, pain feels like it originates from the low back or hip but radiates down the leg. It can feel quite severe and “knife-like”.  

Sciatica is most commonly developed between the ages of 30-50, with those under 40 usually presenting with a herniated disc and those over 40 often presenting with arthritis and/or bone spurs. 

Imaging such as x-rays and an MRI scan can help to determine the affected nerve roots and direct treatment. In 80-90% of cases, sciatica will get better without surgery. Nonsurgical treatment may include: 

  • Rest 
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) 
  • Heat or ice on the affected area 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Injection into the spine (in more severe cases) 

If nonsurgical treatment fails, you may be referred to a neurosurgeon to discuss surgical needs. 

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