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What Is Sciatica?

The spine is made up of 33 bones called vertebrae and divided into four regions: cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back), lumbar (lower back), and sacrum. The spinal cord, a thick band of nerve tissue that runs through the spine, is surrounded by bones called vertebrae which provide 360o protection. The spinal cord ends most frequently at the 1st or 2nd lumbar vertebra, though it can end anywhere from the 12th thoracic vertebra to the 3rd lumbar vertebra, in a structure called the cauda equina. At the cauda equina the spinal cord branches into ten separate nerve roots, five of which exit through openings in the vertebra, called foramen, and combine in the buttock to form the sciatic nerve, the longest and largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve supplies sensory and motor function to the legs; compression of the sciatic nerve leads to a set of symptoms known as sciatica.

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