Illustration: Nick Iluzada

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A subset of back pain, sciatica affects up to 5 percent of women and refers to pain that can begin in the low back and radiate south to the legs and feet. The pain can vary widely, from a burning sensation to numbness and tingling, brought on by the compression of nerves that begin along the lower spinal column. A herniated disk is one of the most common culprits, but injury, obesity, and even prolonged sitting can also trigger the condition.

Alternative Rx: Physical Therapy (PT)

While severe pain from sciatica will make you want to do anything but exercise, prolonged inactivity can make symptoms worse. Once your acute pain subsides (rest for no more than two days), PT can help prevent further injury to the back by improving posture and flexibility and strengthening muscles for support. One study found that 79 percent of sciatica patients who did physical therapy in addition to receiving routine treatment and medication from a doctor reported complete recovery or significant improvement after a year, while only 56 percent of patients who didn't receive the PT saw similar results.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.