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Could sciatica be the result of workplace safety issues?

Sciatic pain is so common that many people think of it as an inevitable part of aging—but could it really be the result of either small repetitive-use injuries or a specific on-the-job trauma to your spine?

Quite possibly.

Your sciatic nerve is actually the longest, thickest bundle of nerves in your body. This nerve bundle runs from the lower part of your spine, over your hips and down the back of your legs. It provides most of the movement and feeling for your hips, thighs, calves, ankles, feet and toes—so when something happens that causes that nerve to become compressed, the pain can be widespread and excruciating. If the compression is bad enough, it can end up being a debilitating injury.

Three of the top six reasons for sciatic nerve compression are bulging or herniated discs in the back, trauma and piriformis syndrome—all of which can be caused by on-the-job injuries.

It's estimated that the vast majority of sciatic nerve problems develop slowly, through repetitive use injuries. The discs in your back, for example, help carry and distribute your weight and absorb the shock of your motions as you walk, run, stoop or bend. These discs can become worn out or slip out of place, especially if your job involves a lot of lifting and bending.

Similarly, an abrupt traumatic blow or a sudden, wrenching fall can cause major injuries to the discs in your back—which can then compress the sciatic nerve bundle. If the trauma is severe, it may require immediate surgery. Even if immediate surgery isn't required, the damage to the nerve can cause leg weakness, incontinence and the inability to hold your bowels.

Piriformis syndrome is a neuromuscular disorder that causes sciatica. The piriformis muscle is located in your buttocks, near the top of your hips, and it helps stabilize your hip joints as you lift and rotate your thighs. Any trauma to that area, like a blow to the hips or a fall that causes you to land on that muscle, can cause inflammation, swelling and bleeding. If the muscle tightens up, compressing the nerve, you can be left with chronic numbness, tingling and pain throughout the lower half of your body.

If you've developed sciatic pain and suspect that it is related to chronic wear and tear on the job or a specific work injury, you may find that the assistance of a workers' compensation attorney is very beneficial. .

Source: www.spineuniverse.com, "6 Leading Causes of Sciatica," Jean-Jacques Abitbol, MD, reviewed by Brian R Subach, MD, accessed Jan. 09, 2017

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