This is part 1 of a 2 part series. In the first part we are going to talk about what causes Sciatica and in the second part we are going to talk about the treatments for Sciatica.
First and foremost, it’s always important in any type of back pain to understand the source of the pain. But it’s more important to understand for sciatica the source of the pain is not always in the same area.
These 5 causes we are going to discuss are related to the spine so it’s very important to understand the spine. It’s not complicated but requires a little understanding. If and when you understand it you will be better prepared to treat it. This is typically because we don’t always treat the pain instead we treat the cause of the pain. And it’s my experience with treating sciatica when the patient understands the problems the outcome of the treatments are better.
- The spine is made of 24 vertebrae; these are the bones in your back.
- In between each vertebra there are discs. These discs do 2 things, they allow for each vertebra to move in six directions, and they act like shock absorbers.
- The main purpose of the spine is to protect your spinal cord.
- Between each vertebra there is a nerve that exits the spine off of the spinal cord. And for our purposes we are going to address the nerves of the lumbar spine, your lower back.
- The nerves that exit your spine in your lower back form the sciatic nerve.
The number 1 cause is the most common cause of sciatica, the dreaded herniated disc in your lower back!
The discs in between the vertebra are similar to a jelly donut, in the sense that the outer portion of the disc is a thick material and the inner portion of the disc there is a jelly. The jelly can sometimes rip through the outer portion of the disc and push on the nerves of the spine. When this happens you will very often have sciatic pain. (Pain that goes down the leg.) As I alluded to earlier if you treat leg pain, you will not get better but if you treat your herniated disc you will get better. There are many reasons disc will herniate and I will address that in a later blog post.
Cause #2 is related to the disc it just the smaller version of the herniated disc, it’s the bulging disc.
We talked about the herniation of the disc where the nucleus (jelly) pushes out of the vertebra and pinches the nerve. Well the bulging disc is where the jelly is pushing out but doesn’t tear the thicker portion of the disc. So in essence the disc is not herniated it’s just bulging. It bulges into the nerve as it exits the spine and when you have sciatica. The reasons for the bulge are similar to the herniation and are addressed in another blog post. See Bulging Disc!