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Causes of Sciatic Pain

Sciatic pain is associated with irritation of sciatic nerve. Sciatic pain is typically experienced from low back to behind the thighs and extending down below the knee. It is characterized by tenderness and pain in leg and thigh. Various factors are responsible for the sciatic pain. For appropriate treatment, we should first find out the causes of sciatic pain.

Sciatic pain is mainly caused by irritation of roots of the lumbosacral and lower lumbar spine. Some most common causes of sciatic pain are as follows:

  • Narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis)
  • Degenerative disc disease which causes breakdown of discs that act as a cushion between the vertebrae
  • Lumbar herniated disc
  • Spondylolisthesis

Lumbar herniated disc results from extrusion of nucleus pulposus of the disc through annulus. A herniated disc is also known as slipped disk, protruding disc, ruptured disk, pinched nerve or bulging disc. Sciatic pain is one of the most common symptoms of lumbar herniated disc.

Lumbar spinal stenosis can give rise to sciatic pain because of narrowing of spinal canal. This condition is more common in adults above the age of 60. It typically originates from the overgrowth of soft tissue, enlarged facet joints and bulging disc placing pressure on the nerve roots.

Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of sciatic pain. Degeneration of disc is a natural process that is related with aging. In some cases, one or more degenerated discs can cause irritation of a nerve root, which can lead to sciatic pain.

Isthmic spondylolisthesis is caused by slipping forward of one vertebra on another due to a small stress fracture. With a combination of fracture, disc space collapse and vertebral body slipping forward, the nerve may get pinched causing sciatic pain. An irritation of sciatic nerve may be due to piriformis syndrome. If piriformis muscle pinches or irritates, a nerve root that consists of sciatic nerve can cause sciatica-type pain. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can lead to irritation of sacroiliac joint at the bottom of spine. It can give rise to irritation of L5 nerve which lies on the top of sacroiliac joint. Irritation of L5 nerve can can cause sciatica-type pain.

Sciatic pain can also be caused by direct nerve compression resulting from external forces to sacral spinal or lumbar nerve roots. It may be due to falling down, motor vehicle accidents, football and other sports. The impact can injure the nerves or sometimes fragments of broken bone can cause compression of the nerves.

Spinal tumors can be one of the important causes of sciatic pain. If spinal tumor develops in the lumbar region, there is a risk of nerve compression and development of sciatic pain. Lumbar subluxation means the altered position of vertebra in lower back. There may be function loss due to this condition that may result in sciatic pain.

Other possible reasons that may give rise to sciatic pain are:

  • overweight
  • wearing high heels
  • lack of regular exercise
  • sleeping on too soft mattress

Some common symptoms of sciatic pain are pain in leg or rear that may worsen when sitting, tingling or burning down the leg. Patient with sciatic pain may experience numbness, weakness in leg or difficulty in moving foot or leg. There may be a constant pain on one side of the rear. Diagnosis of sciatic pain is made with the help of MRI or CT scan. Various medications like muscle relaxants and analgesics are prescribed to treat the sciatic pain.

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