This is Part Two of an ongoing series on the causes and treatments for Sciatica. This part will continue the discussion on the causes of Sciatica. If you missed Part One, Click Here!
Before we begin, let's do a quick recap of Part One. In that first part we talked about:
- Some basic facts and anatomy of the spine, and how it relates to Sciatica
- The most common cause of Sciatica is the Herniated Disc
- The number two cause is the "cousin" of the Herniated Disc, the Bulging Disc
Now, let's continue our discussion on the causes of Sciatica:
The third cause of Sciatica is the Degenerated Disc
A Degenerated Disc occurs due to regular wear and tear on a disc over time. If you recall from our discussion in Part One, each disc has an opening where the nerve exits the spine. When your disc becomes degenerated, it becomes thinner which makes that opening smaller. This causes a pinched nerve. And when this occurs in the lower back, the nerve that gets pinched is the sciatic nerve. This causes what we call Sciatica.
Unfortunately, when one disc becomes degenerated, it often starts a sort of chain reaction. One Degenerated Disc will usually lead to more. This is called Degenerative Disc Disease, and it occurs because once one disc deteriorates, it causes additional stress on the other surrounding discs, which in turn causes them to break down faster as well (degenerate).
Many people may say that disc degeneration is a "normal" occurance, but it really is not. It is normal in the same way that a cavity in your tooth is normal. You may know how a cavity develops but choose not to do anything to prevent them, so getting one is "normal." In much the same way, you may repeatedly do things to your spine that can cause disc degeneration but choose not to change your habits to prevent it from happening, so Degenerated Discs are "normal" as well.
For more infomation, see Degenerated Disc!
The number 4 cause of Sciatica is Spinal Stenosis in the lower back (Lumbar) region
Earlier, we discussed how with a Degenerated Disc the opening where the nerve exits the spine gets smaller and causes a pinched nerve. Spinal Stenosis is very similar, but in a different location. With stenosis, the narrowing occurs where the actual spinal cord is. This narrowing irritates the nerves before they even exit the spine through a disc. Also similar to a Degenerated Disc, Stenosis occurs through wear and tear, but of the spine instead of the disc. The wear and tear will, over time, result in bone changes, overgrowth of ligaments, and other soft tissue changes such as Bulging Discs and Disc Degeneration.
Throughout our discussion on the causes of Sciatica, it is important to realize that although they have different names, the causes all have a very similar origin. This is important because 99% of all back pain is caused by this origin of these conditions. It is all related to the stresses on the spine, which leads to the eventual break down of the spine and soft tissues.
Spinal Stenosis is usually the most difficult to treat of all the causes of Sciatica. But with a little bit of effort, Stenosis can also be eliminated without drugs or surgery.
For more information, see Spinal Stenosis!
The fifth and final most common cause of Sciatica is called Piriformis Syndrome
We discussed in Part One how the sciatic nerve exits the spine and travels down the leg. When it exits the spine, it passes between a muscle and the bones of the pelvis. This muscle is called the piriformis muscle, and it can sometimes cause the sciatic nerve to become irritated. This is called Piriformis Syndrome. Much like the previous four conditions, the main symptom of this syndrome is pain, sometimes severe, travelling down the leg.
These conditions all have something in common, in that the origin of the breakdown is dysfunction. There is a specific treatment for each of these five causes, so it is very important to know where the problem is located so the correct treatment can be given. The more specific the diagnosis is leads to a more specific treatment, and a better outcome for the patient.
Remember, this is just Part Two of a Ten part series. Part Three continues our discussion on the most common causes of Sciatica! To receive the entire Sciatica Series, sign up by clicking here:
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!