Sciatica affects numerous Americans. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of pain. Sciatica radiates from your lower back and goes all the way down the back of your legs. Generally, sciatica pain resolves itself with rest.
However, chronic sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage if left untreated. It is important to understand the underlying causes of sciatica pain so you can understand the optimum treatment plan that could provide you with effective pain relief.
Several conditions can cause sciatica. However, the most common causes of sciatica are:
Herniated or Slipped Disc
A spinal disc also referred to as an “intervertebral disc” acts as a cushion that helps absorb the shocks between the spinal vertebrae joints. These “shocks” are caused by to various, regular movements of your body. The inner gelatinous core of the spinal disc also referred to as the “nucleus”, sometimes pushes through a crack in the thick outer layer and causes a bulging or herniated, or slipped disc.
A herniated disc can occur anywhere on the spine. When the herniated disc occurs in the lower back of the spine near the sciatica nerves, it often compresses one or more nerve roots that form the sciatica nerve. Sciatica nerve root compression causes radiating pain down the path of the sciatica nerve. It also leads to muscle weakness, tingling, and shock-like sensation down the back of the leg.
A herniated disc may also cause nerve inflammation or irritation leading the sciatica pain.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Natural wear and tear occurs due to aging. However, this “wear and tear” can lead to the spinal discs becoming thin. Natural wear and tear also can decrease the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the discs. This can add to the deterioration of the disc leading to a herniated or bulging or slipped disc. This is called degenerative disc disease.
The location of the degenerated disc in the lumbosacral region or the lower back of the spine often causes the sciatic nerve to become inflamed or irritated or compressed resulting in sciatica pain.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when one or more spaces within the spinal canal narrows. The spinal cord and the nerve roots are enclosed in the spinal canal. The narrowing of space within the spinal canal causes the spinal cord and the nerves to become irritated, inflamed, compressed, or pinched. When spinal stenosis occurs in the lower back region of the spine it is referred to as “lumbar canal stenosis” or “lumbar spinal stenosis”. Lumbar spinal stenosis is most often caused due to aging.
Lumbar spinal stenosis often compresses, irritates, or inflames the sciatica nerve leading to sciatica pain. Typically, spinal stenosis occurs gradually due to aging.
This condition affects the lower part of the spine and occurs when one or more spinal vertebrae slips or shifts forward over the vertebrae next to it. If the shift between the vertebrae compresses the sciatica nerve root, it causes sciatica pain. Spondylolisthesis may affect sciatica nerves on both sides causing bilateral sciatica.
Spondylolisthesis occurs due to aging but may also occur due to a traumatic injury.
Osteoarthritis is arthritis affecting the bones. This type of arthritis occurs due to aging, injury, or obesity. Osteoarthritis affecting the hips and the hip joints often leads to the formatting of bone spurs. These bone spurs irritate or compress the surrounding lower back nerves. The sciatica nerve located in this region is often affected causing sciatica pain.
In addition to the above-mentioned conditions that lead to sciatica, traumatic injury to the lower part of the spine (lumbar spine) or tumors can also cause sciatica. Medical conditions like diabetes which may cause inflammation of the sciatica nerve may also trigger sciatica.
Pain Relief From Sciatica is Achievable
Irrespective of the cause of your sciatica, it is possible to get relief from your pain through a combination of non-surgical and non-invasive treatment options including spinal decompression therapy and chiropractic exercises. You may be able to avoid back surgery and get relief from sciatica with treatment that addresses the underlying condition for your sciatica pain and helps you heal naturally.
Needing to know about your options to help you with your Sciatica pain? Reach out to our office today to book your appointment so we can help in your return to great back health.