what causes sciatica pain?

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What Causes Sciatica Pain?

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve of the body. It starts from the lower spinal cord and then down through your hips and buttocks, then down the back of the legs.

If you suffer from sciatica pain, you will most likely experience mild to severe pain in the areas of your body where the sciatic nerve runs. There will also be times when you may experience numbness and weakness in these body parts.

The reason you feel pain is because of the sciatic nerve compression, irritation and swelling. The most common causes for developing sciatica pain are as follows.

Herniated Disks

Each vertebra in your spinal cord is separated by a disk, which is a piece of cartilage that helps enable flexibility. This cartilage serves as a cushion between each of your vertebra. It allows your back to move and bend.

However, if the disks between your vertebrae become damaged in some way, the surrounding nerves can become irritated, thereby causing much pain and discomfort.

90% of sciatica pain cases are caused by disc herniation. Once the inflammation ceases and healing occurs, sciatica pain will also decrease and ideally cease.

Spinal Stenosis

This condition is also known as “lumbar spinal stenosis” which is characterized by the abnormal narrowing of the lower spinal canal. This narrowing causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Sufferers of this condition may also experience muscle weakness, numbness, cramping and diminished reflexes.

However, unlike patients suffering from a herniated disk, an individual with spinal stenosis experiences relief from pain if they sit down.


This condition is linked to a degenerative disk disorder. It is also associated with birth defects, fractures or a disease of the bone. It occurs when one of the vertebrae in the spinal column slips out, thereby causing nerve root irritation. This usually happens in the lumbar spine.

Treatment for sciatica caused by isthmic spondylolisthesis may involve pelvic tilt exercises. This is an exercise that keeps the spine in a flexed position.

Piriformis Syndrome

This is a rare condition which is classified as a neuromuscular disorder. This condition occurs when the piriformis muscle starts to involuntarily tighten or contract, which will then cause sciatica pain.

The piriformis muscles can be found in the lower part of the spine and connects down to the thighbones. Piriformis syndrome worsens with prolonged sitting.


Pregnancy can also be a trigger in developing sciatica pain. The compression on the lower back doesn’t help if it occurs. It can especially affect women who have sacroiliac joint problems.

In addition to the lower back and pelvis having to support more weight, during later pregnancy a hormone called relaxin increases the elasticity of the sacroiliac joints. The increased elasticity of the SI joints will result in less stable joints, allowing abnormal pressure on the sciatic nerves.

Since the most common cause of sciatic pain is through disc herniation, bed rest is the most common treatment recommended. Some light physical exercises can also help, but not as much as bed rest can.

In severe cases, medication and surgery are prescribed for treating the underlying cause of the sciatica pain.

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