Sciatica is usually a sign of lower back or spinal problems. Knowing the particular sciatica causes will go a very long way in getting it treated effectively.
There are several medical issues that can cause this potentially incapacitating pain in the lower part of the body.
We discuss the most common of these disorders which sciatica causes in this article, along with some other causative and risk factors.
Spinal Disc Herniation
This is arguably the most common cause of sciatica in individuals. Some estimates suggest that spinal disc herniation, which can pinch the lumbar or sacral nerve roots, is an issue in up to 90 percent of cases. The condition is known by a variety of names, including bulging disc, ruptured disc or herniated disc.
The spinal disc features an inner core known as the nucleus pulposus and an outer wall called the annulus fibrosus. There is a disc herniation when the soft inner core containing a gel-like substance breaks through the outer wall. It is also possible for the nucleus to bulge out but still, remain “contained.”
In either of the cases mentioned, compression or irritation of nerve roots and tissue can result. This is a means by which sciatica develops.
This is another disorder that can cause pinching of nerves. It is characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal, which your spinal cord passes through. This compresses the spinal cord and/or sciatic nerve roots, giving rise to sciatica.
There is an age factor for lumbar spinal stenosis. It is more common among the elderly in that the spinal canal tends to narrow as some people get older.
Degenerative Disc Disease
When discs in the lower section of the spinal column degenerate, nerve roots can become irritated and become the sciatica cause.
Weakened discs lead to too much micro-motion. The inflammatory proteins contained within the discs can become exposed. This causes irritation of nerve roots.
This is yet another reason why sciatica is more common among older adults. Degenerative disc disease is an age-related disorder, typically seen more in individuals who are 60 years of age or older.
This takes its name after the piriformis muscle, which can be found in the lower region of your spine. This muscle, which plays a role in the leg and hip rotation, normally passes through over the sciatic nerve in the buttock. In some people, however, the nerve runs through the muscle. This is what Piriformis syndrome entails.
When there is a muscle spasm for whatever reason, this can lead to compression of the sciatic nerve and to pain. The type of sciatica cause results from this effect of the piriformis muscle is sometimes informally “wallet sciatica.”
A vertebral disc can slip out of place and sit in an awkward manner above another. This disorder of the lumbar spine known as spondylolisthesis can cause nerve roots to become compressed. This can lead to leg pain as seen in sciatica causes.
Some children are born with isthmic spondylolisthesis. Other people develop it as a result of trauma, physical stress, or spinal degeneration.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint can be found at the lower end of the spine. Lying above it is the lumber segment L5, which can become irritated when there is a disorder. This irritation can cause the type of pain people with sciatica usually have.
Other Causes of Sciatica
In addition to the above common causes, there are several others that can lead to sciatic nerve pain. They include:
Being pregnant can make a woman develop sciatica. This is because the weight of the baby in her womb can pinch the sciatic nerve. Especially when sitting, numbing the leg the nerve gets pinched. Hormonal changes and weight gain can also increase the risk of having the symptoms.
Abnormal cell growth, whether malignant or benign, in the lumbar region, can cause sciatica. The tumors will likely compress the nerve roots.
They can originate from the spine or develop from cancer cells spreading from other parts of the body. Muscle weakness, loss of bladder control, or intense pain radiating down to the feet are some possible symptoms.
A person can develop sciatica as a result of trauma to the spine. Significant external force can cause damage to the nerve roots or cause them to become compressed. High-impact sports and motor accidents are major causes of the kind of trauma that can be an issue.
Other sciatica causes or conditions include:
• Ankylosing spondylitis
• Muscle strain
• Scar tissue
It has been proposed that a latent infection of Propionibacterium acnes in the intervertebral discs can also cause people to develop sciatica. What is not entirely clear, however, is how this can be an issue.
Risk Factors for Sciatica
As we have indicated already, aging is a major factor in the incidence of sciatica. Certain conditions that often afflict older individuals may increase their risk. For instance, it is thought that diabetes can increase the chances of symptoms in that it is capable of nerve damage.
Individuals who engage in highly demanding activities or sports, such as heavy lifting, are at increased risk. Bone loss seen in menopausal women is also believed to increase the likelihood of developing sciatica symptoms.
The sedentary lifestyle may be an issue, although some people think it isn’t. But, at least, it can be said that it contributes indirectly. It promotes obesity, which research suggests increases the risk of sciatic nerve pain.
Researchers have found that tobacco use can make people susceptible to leg pain. This is a factor in disc degeneration.
You are going to need the help of a medical professional in getting to the root of your sciatica problem if you have it. Detection and treatment of the underlying cause is a crucial first step to full recovery.