Seven common causes of sciatica

Sciatica is a term that refers to a set of symptoms that can develop from compression of the sciatic nerve. These symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the hips, buttocks, legs and feet. For those affected, sciatica can be extremely disruptive to everyday life, including work, sleep and being able to enjoy time with family and friends. While this condition is treatable, it can be difficult to diagnose the underlying cause in some cases. The following overview of common sciatica causes can help you to work more closely with you doctor as you seek lasting relief and a return to an active lifestyle.

Understanding the causes of sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the largest and thickest nerve in the body. It extends from the base of the spinal cord in the lumbar (lower) spine and travels downward before culminating in the feet. This nerve is vital for regular movement, so when the normal function of the sciatic nerve is impeded, the body can respond with a variety of symptoms. In some cases, sciatic pain can develop in the lower back. In other instances, it travels along the length of the sciatic nerve and can cause lower body pain, muscle weakness and spasms and even numbness in the feet.

Here are seven examples of conditions that can lead directly to sciatica and sciatic pain:

  1. Bulging and herniated discs — damaged disc material can directly compress the sciatic nerve
  2. Spondylolisthesis — a condition involving spinal slippage that can result in the sciatic nerve being compressed by a displaced disc or vertebra
  3. Bone spurs — smooth growths of excess bone that can take up space within the spinal column and potentially affect the sciatic nerve
  4. Piriformis syndrome — inflammation of this muscle in the buttocks can put pressure on the sciatic nerve
  5. Pregnancy — can lead to nerve compression because of the extra weight and the displacement of anatomy
  6. Lower back strain — can disrupt normal functioning of the sciatic nerve
  7. Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction — a disorder within the SI joint near the tailbone that can cause sciatica symptoms

Treatment for sciatica

There are many different treatment options available to patients who have been diagnosed with sciatica. Usually, treatment is first attempted with a course of conservative treatments, but surgery can be an option for some of the causes of sciatica if weeks or months go by without an improvement in symptoms.

At Laser Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat patients who have sciatica as a result of a degenerative spine condition. Our procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, offering our patients an outpatient experience and a shorter recovery time.^

To learn more and determine if you may be a candidate for one of our treatments by getting a no-cost review of your recent MRI,* contact us today.

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