Your sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and then down each leg. When this nerve is compressed or irritated, it becomes inflamed. Sciatic nerve inflammation, known as sciatica, causes burning or shooting pain, numbness, and tingling along your nerve.
Because sciatica is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition, sciatica treatment often involves treatment for the underlying condition as well.
Barry Hughes, DC and Brittany Anz, DC approach sciatica treatment with a careful lens, first identifying and treating any potential underlying causes of sciatica, and then building a treatment plan accordingly.
Below, we highlight five of the most common medical conditions that cause sciatica.
What Conditions Cause Sciatica?
While sciatica can happen during pregnancy (if the weight of the uterus presses on the sciatic nerve) or from lifestyle habits (sitting on a thick wallet in your back pocket that presses your nerve), most sciatica cases are related to medical conditions 一 specifically, lower back disorders 一 that compress your sciatic nerve root.
Five medical conditions that contribute to sciatic nerve impingement are:
- Herniated lumbar discs – Your lumbar spine (your lower back) contains five intervertebral discs located between each of the vertebral bodies. While the discs have a harder outside, the inner portion is a soft gel material that helps absorb some of the shock on your spine. Sometimes, though, the softer inner part of the disc bulges out. This is called a bulged disc or a herniated disc. If the disc material slips out of place, it can put pressure on your sciatic nerve and cause pain.
- Degenerative disc disease – Degenerative disc disease refers to the wear-and-tear on your spinal discs. The natural process of aging can make your discs dry, stiff, and less resistant to the impact/shock of daily activity. If a disc becomes dry, the exterior portion can crack, allowing the inner portion to leak out of the disc and irritate your sciatic nerve. Unfortunately, degenerative disc disease also contributes to the development of bone spurs 一 bony growths on the edges of your bones that can also cause sciatica.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – Osteoarthritis can make the spaces in your spine narrower. Spinal stenosis, the name for this narrowing process, means there’s less room for the nerves to comfortably fit in your spinal canal. If the spinal canal narrows in your lower back, it’s called lumbar spinal stenosis, and it can squeeze your nerves and put additional pressure on your sciatic nerve.
- Piriformis syndrome – Piriformis syndrome is common among runners, and it’s a common cause of sciatica. Your sciatic nerve passes under your piriformis muscle. If this muscle is overworked or fatigued by a sudden increase in mileage, it can spasm and irritate your sciatic nerve.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – The sacroiliac (SI) joint links your pelvis with your spine, and it’s intended to help you bend forward and backward, assist with transfer motion, and take pressure off your spine when you bend. However, if the joint moves too much or too little, it can cause sciatica. It can also create muscle tension, reduce your mobility, and contribute to chronic lower back pain.
Exploring Your Sciatica Treatment Options
Because untreated sciatica can intensify over time, it’s important to find the treatment solution that works best for you, and that starts with an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of your sciatica. For severe cases, our team provides referrals to expert orthopedists near Pearland, Texas.
In addition to treating the medical conditions that cause sciatica, sciatic nerve inflammation responds well to:
- Chiropractic care
- Lifestyle changes (such as not sitting on your wallet)
- Using proper posture
If your lower back hurts and you suspect you have sciatica, call our Pearland, Texas, office at 281-223-1172 to explore your sciatica treatment options. You can also request an appointment online today.