GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– As many as forty percent of people will get sciatica at some point during their lives, according to Harvard Medical School.

As part of our “Ask the Expert series”, a physical therapist explains more about the debilitating condition and how to treat it.

Sciatica is one of the most common types of pain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Sciatica is typically an abnormal or inflammatory response to a nerve. And the sciatic nerve being one of the big major nerves in our body that runs down the back of our leg.”

Kurt Kimmons, Physical Therapist, Bon Secours St. Francis

Kurt Kimmons, a physical therapist, says sciatica starts in the lumbar spine or the lower back where the nerve exits the sacrum or pelvis. When it exits, it goes down the center of the back of the leg.

“It can run a range of burning, aching pain down the back of your leg into the buttocks, down to the back of, you know, the back of the foot area. It can also be a range of symptoms like numbness and tingling, like pins and needles. If you’ve ever hit your funny bone or if you’ve ever sat on your feet for a while and your leg kind of goes to sleep,” said Kimmons.

Kimmons says anyone can get it.

“Mainly based on your postures, positions, how you sit, what kind of activities you do,” said Kimmons.

Those with arthritis tend to have a higher risk for sciatica.

He says, ” This degeneration and other issues with your lumbar spine or your lower back tend to create an inflammatory response in the area.”

Kimmons says sciatica can be largely prevented.

“The main prevention mechanism that we want to think about is movement… blood flow creates a better healing environment. So, when we get blood flow and movement to nerves, it can help it heal.”

Kurt Kimmons, Physical Therapist, Bon Secours St. Francis

If you have already been diagnosed with sciatica, it can be treated.

Kimmons says a physical therapist can help address your posture, show you exercises to increase mobility, and how to stretch your body to prevent flare-ups.

Also, your doctor can help.

“I know you go to your doctor and you can get injections to help your inflammatory response. Sometimes a combination of getting an injection plus in to see us as therapists will help for faster recovery of the nerve itself,” said Kimmons.

Kimmons says there are several tests therapists can perform to diagnose sciatica. They are not invasive and simply require the patient to do specific movements to evaluate the range of motion and check for any radiating pain.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.