Many different sciatica causes exist. Sciatica, a symptom of a diagnosed condition, can stem from a number of ailments. Though sciatica leg pain is the most common complaint, not all individuals will experience it. For example, in piriformis syndrome, discomfort and pain are most often felt in the buttocks and hip area. Sometimes in the case of a herniated disc, the pain can occur solely in the foot or calf. Manifestations of sciatica can vary just as the number of sciatica causes.
A Slipped Disc
One of the most common of sciatica causes is a herniated disc. Sometimes referred to as a slipped disc, bulging disc or ruptured disc, this condition occurs when the cushioned spinal disc loses water content, becomes brittle and shifts in between the vertebrae. When the disc begins to press against the nerve roots in the lower back region, the sciatic nerve can become irritated and sciatica can occur. Depending on the location of the disc, different symptoms may occur with sciatica leg pain being the most frequently reported. The disc degeneration leading to the herniated disc can be brought on by injury or simply by age.
Narrowing of the Spinal Canal
Spinal stenosis, refers to a narrowing within the spinal canal. Usually brought on by age and arthritic conditions, the ligaments can begin to calcify and thicken and bones within the spine can also enlarge. Both of these situations reduce the amount of space within the spinal canal, creating pressure against the nerve roots. When this happens in the lower part of the spine, the sciatic nerve can become compressed, creating sciatica leg pain and other symptoms such as numbness and tingling in the back of the thigh.
Fractures in the Spine
Beginning as a fractured vertebrae in the lower spinal area, spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebrae has slipped over another. This can be brought on in a number of ways. Sometimes spondylolisthesis occurs as a result of another diagnosed condition. For instance, osteoporosis, a disease that leads to loss of bone density, can cause fractures in the spine, leading to spondylolisthesis. This is one of the examples of sciatica causes that may require surgery.
Often overlooked as one of the sciatica causes, this condition involves irritation or tightness of the piriformis muscle. Located in the outside of the hip area and reaching across the lower buttock area, this muscle is responsible for the rotation of the hip while the leg is extended. When this muscle becomes inflamed usually due to overuse or inflexibility of the surrounding muscles, sciatica leg pain can result due to the pressure of the muscle pressing the sciatic nerve against bone.
Other Sciatica Causes
In rarer instances, other sciatica causes such as infection and cancer can be responsible for sciatica. Cases have been reported where a bacterial infection caused disc degeneration and ultimately, sciatica. Tumors, growing in the spinal cord, spinal canal or in the membranes can also place pressure against the nerve roots as the tumors increase in size.
When treating sciatica, it can be extremely helpful to determine which of many sciatica causes is responsible. Once the diagnosis is made, specific treatments can be designed to target the root cause of the sciatica episode.