Sciatica is a condition which involves leg pain, weakness, and sensation changes in the leg as a result of changes in the body which affect the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve itself is formed by nerves coming out of the lumbar spine and sacral spine. These nerves combine in the buttocks area to form the sciatic nerve, and travel down the leg before they branch just above the knee. The nerve branches travel down the front and back of the leg to supply the entire lower limb and foot. When the sciatic nerve becomes compromised, a person may feel pain that is localized to the injured part, or the patient may experience pain along the entire path of the nerve. The symptoms of sciatica may be exacerbated by the movements that caused the original injury, certain body positions, or increases in activity levels. There are several possible sciatica causes, including:
Here we will discuss some of these possible causes of this condition, and the diagnostic tests and tools that doctors may use to differentiate one from the other.
- Lumbar Herniated Disc
- Ruptured Disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Bone Spurs
- Pinched Nerve
- Spinal Tumors
- Piroformis Syndrome
- Lumbosacral muscle strain
- Emotional Stress
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Sacroiliac Ligament Tear
- Weak Muscles
Weak muscles: The muscles hold our spine in the erect position when we are sitting, standing, and working. These muscles in the lumbosacral region lengthen and shorten as the move near the sciatic nerve. Poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and excessive weight gain may cause the muscles that support the spine to weaken. When the back and abdominal muscles become weak, they cannot effectively hold the spine erect. When the bottom of the spine tilts or its normal lumbar curve changes, the sciatic nerve may be susceptible to stress and pressure.
Sacroiliac ligament tear: The nerves that combine to form the sciatic nerve arise from openings in the side of the last lumbar segments and the holes in the side of the sacrum. The sacrum itself is connected to the sides of the pelvis by a pair of joints known as the sacroiliac joints. These sacroiliac joints have some flexibility to allow for some movement, though they are designed to be a fairly rigid to anchor the base of the spine in its correct position. Pain may be experienced due to the hypo-flexibility or hyper-flexibility of these ligaments. When tears occur in these ligaments, pain may be felt across the back and down the thigh. Swelling caused by this injury may impact the sciatic nerve - starving it of space.
Endometrial Cysts: The Uterus is the structure in the female body where the fetus grows and develops. In some cases, tissue that is identical to that which grows in the uterus attaches to other parts of the body and grows there. These abnormal growths of tissue are known as endometrial cysts, or endometrioma. These cysts may continue to grow until their size is reduced by medications or removed by laparoscopic surgery. When these growths occur in the pelvic region, they may lead to sciatica. The size of these growths may be linked to the female's menstrual cycle, when the tissue can engorge and shed, leading to menstrual bleeding.
Arthritis: Arthritis is an uncommon cause of sciatica that may be a factor in some cases. Arthritis defined is the swelling of the joints, and there are several joints near the nerves that give rise to the sciatic. Symptoms of arthritis include pain, swelling, and structural changes to the affected bones and tissues. Arthritis may cause changes to the facet joints and intervertbral discs in the region occupied by the sciatic nerve. The symptoms of osteoarthritis may be similar to the symptoms of nerve root entrapment.
Emotional Stress: Emotional problems such as stress, anxiety, and depression are becoming more popular among all health professionals as a cause of back pain. The data across the board indicates that people who experience persistent stress are more likely to have musculoskeletal problems such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic pain. Why? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? In other words, does stress cause strain on the body, or do we become stressed out because we are in constant pain? The emerging data suggests that we experience pain because of persistent stress. The body reacts to stress by releasing hormones that increase heart rate and breathing rate. Also, these hormone triggering stresses tighten muscles throughout our body. Tightening of the muscles in the lumbosacral spine may cause pressure to be put on the sciatic nerve.