What is SCIATICA and what CAUSES it?

What is SCIATICA?

Sciatica is a painful symptom of a possibly more serious medical condition. This painful condition affects the lower back, hips and leg that can make sitting, standing and walking incredibly uncomfortable.  Common back problems that can contribute to sciatica symptoms include a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or spinal stenosis.

 



Sciatica is often associated with one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Constant pain on one side of the low back, hip or leg (rarely in both sides)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Pain that is often described as burning or tingling, as opposed to a throb or dull ache.
  • Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk, and can cause instability in a sudden sharp attack
  • Pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes.

Common CAUSES of Sciatica

Lumbar herniated disc
A herniated disc occurs when the soft cushioning material in between the vertebrae protrudes or herniates, through its outer protective covering. This can put pressure on or pinch the sciatic nerve causing painful symptoms.

Other terms used to refer to a herniated disc are slipped disc, ruptured disc, bulging disc or protruding disc. Sciatica is the most common symptom of a lumbar herniated disc.

Degenerative disc disease

While some level of disc degeneration is natural and occurs with aging, one or more degenerated discs in the lower back can cause nerve irritation and cause sciatica.

Degenerative disc disease can be diagnosed when a weakened or damaged disc causes excessive movement in the spine. This leads to irritation and inflammation that can be detected by blood test results that detect inflammatory proteins along with sciatica symptoms.

Spondylolisthesis
This condition occurs when one vertebra slips forward on another. This can be the results of an injury or a small stress fracture. The overall change in alignment of the spine results in sciatica nerve pain.

Spinal stenosis
This condition commonly causes sciatica due to a narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on nerves causing painful symptoms. Spinal stenosis is related to the natural ageing of the spine and is relatively common in adults over 60 years of age.

Spinal stenosis commonly occurs along with spinal arthritis, and arthritis can also cause or contribute to sciatica symptoms.

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