Harvard Health Letter

Getting a leg up on sciatica

Surgery brings faster relief, but if you can wait it out, nonsurgical treatment may be just as effective over the long run.

Sciatica is a medical term that seems a little old-fashioned, like lumbago or the grippe. For many of us, it conjures up childhood memories of elderly relatives wincing and talking about their "sciatica acting up." We knew it had something to do with the back, although we weren't quite sure what.

But sciatica (pronounced sigh-AT-eh-ka), both as a term and a condition, is still very much with us. The hallmarks are pain and numbness that radiates down the leg, often below the knee. In nine out of 10 cases, sciatica is caused by a displaced disk in the lower spine.

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