Harvard Men's Health Watch

Sciatica: Of all the nerve

Sciatica does not need to be a pain to treat. There are several ways to minimize and manage flare-ups.

Sciatica is one of the most common, yet misunderstood, types of pain. As many as 40% of people will get it during their life, and it becomes more frequent as you age.

"People who suffer from acute or chronic back pain tend to be more susceptible to sciatica," says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. "Your risk also rises if you're obese, if you smoke, or if you're sedentary."

A look at sciatica

Sciatica tends to get lumped in with regular back pain, but it is different. The pain originates with the sciatic nerves. They are your body's two largest nerves and are about as thick as your little finger. The nerves emanate from the lower lumbar spine and pass through the buttocks, down the back of each leg, to the soles of the feet and the big toes.

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