Sciatica pain results from irritation of the largest nerve in the body: the sciatic nerve. Pain often travels along the nerve from the lower back (where the nerve is rooted) through the buttock area, behind the thigh and down beyond the knee. Pain commonly occurs in one side of the body only, although it can be present on both sides. There are many medical conditions and lifestyle factors which may cause nerve crowding, pressure and/or irritation of the sciatic nerve, including:
- Herniated disc: A slipped or bulging disc in the lower back is the most common source of sciatica pain. This condition is also referred to as a ruptured or protruding disc. When the discs that provide cushioning between the spinal bones (vertebrae) deflate or dry out somewhat, due to age or injury, the softer inner cartilage may bulge through the outer surface. The bulging area can intrude into the spinal cord area, leaving less space for the nerve.
- Degenerative disc disease: Multiple herniated discs (the general breakdown of spinal discs)
- Arthritis: Bone spurs may form along the arthritic spine, irritating the spinal nerves.
- Piriformis syndrome: This muscle in the buttocks connects the lower spine to the upper part of the thigh bone. It may become tight or strained or go into spasm, applying pressure to or pinching the sciatic nerve that passes through the area.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back.
- Pregnancy: The bodily changes that occur during pregnancy can bring back pain and sciatic pain. Center of gravity changes and added weight put greater stress on the lower back and sciatic nerve roots located there.
- Spondylolisthesis: Slippage of a vertebra due to stress fracture, usually occurring in the 5th lumbar vertebra. The displaced vertebra moves forward (out of proper position) and out of alignment with adjacent bones irritating the sciatic nerve root.
- Injury: An injury may cause bone, muscle or other tissues to swell or move out of place and irritate the sciatic nerve at some point along its length.
- Tumor: As a tumor grows it can place pressure on or crowd the sciatic nerve.
- Infection: Inflammation within the body due to infection can also affect the sciatic nerve.
- Bad diet and/or overweight: Besides being unhealthy overall, extra weight stresses the spine.
- Not exercising: Strengthening the body helps it properly support the spine, taking stress off the spine and nearby sciatic nerve. Stretching exercises ease muscle tension that might otherwise irritate nerves.
- Wearing high heels: High heels can place more stress on the lumbar area and exacerbate or bring about sciatica pain.
- Sitting for an extended period: This position can place more stress on the nerve, bringing on pain or making pain worse.
- Sleeping on a soft, non-supportive mattress: Or sitting in a chair or soft sofa without lumbar support.
Don't let back pain impact your life. Learn the cause and begin natural treatments to relieve or cure the painful condition. For a free consultation with a back specialist, contact the Illinois Back Institute. We offer a range of treatments tailored to each individual patient, including proven-effective, non-invasive Functional Disc RehydrationTM.