Sciatica is one of the most prevalent types of persistent pain among both men and women, with about 2 in 5 people experiencing it at some point in their adult lives.
Even if sciatica begins as a bothersome ache or discomfort in your lower spine, it has the potential to eventually progress into the type of incapacitating pain that spreads through your buttock and down the back of one of your lower extremities, possibly reaching your calf or even the bottom of your foot.
Sciatica, also known as sciatic nerve pain, develops when your sciatic nerve is compressed or impinged. This nerve is responsible for providing feeling and motor fiction to your lower body. It is the largest and longest nerve in your body.
Sciatica can result in chronic or episodic loss of sensation or weakening anywhere along the nerve path in addition to traveling pain or persistent discomfort. In order to effectively treat any sciatica condition, the root of the issue must be identified.
A large percentage of sciatica cases are brought on by lower back problems that aggravate or impinge on the sciatic nerve root. The following are the most prevalent culprits behind sciatic nerve damage:
1. Lumbar disc problems
If a disc in your lower back bulges or even somewhat shifts outside the space designated for it within the spinal canal, your sciatic nerve may become irritated or compressed. If left ignored, a herniated or ruptured bulging disc may leak some of its soft inner material onto adjacent nerves.
If a herniated lumbar disc is compressing your sciatic nerve, you may experience a burning sensation starting in your lower back and spreading down the back of your leg.
2. Degenerative disc disease
Your spinal discs shrink as you get older, getting stiff, inflexible, and less resilient to the stress of everyday movement. A degenerating lumbar disc's resistant outer layer may rupture, causing its fluid to leak out over your sciatic nerve root. Additionally, it could discharge inflammatory proteins that irritate the nearby nerves.
If spinal disc degeneration is left untreated, bone spurs, another possible cause of sciatica, can develop.
3. Spinal stenosis
The narrowing of the spaces between your vertebrae, known as spinal stenosis, is primarily caused by osteoarthritis-related degenerative processes. A condition known as lumbar stenosis causes the spinal canal in the lower back to constrict, placing pressure on the sciatic nerve and causing a range of unpleasant or incapacitating sciatica symptoms.
You might have a loss of sensation, pins and needles, or weakness in the lower extremities, as well as discomfort or cramping when walking or after spending a lot of time standing still.
4. Piriformis syndrome
Your sciatic nerve travels through a gap in your pelvis before entering your lower body. It's tucked away inside that opening, but it's also just next to your piriformis muscle. The sciatic nerve can become irritated when this little buttock muscle cramps or spasms, resulting in discomfort, loss of sensation, or pins and needles down the back of your leg and into your foot.
5. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
Your pelvic bone and sacrum, the little triangular bone that lies between your lumbar spine and your tailbone, are joined by the strong sacroiliac (SI) joint. When you bend forward or backward, it helps transfer motion, load, and pressure from your spine to your body.
The dysfunction of the SI joint, which is typically brought on by too much or too little movement inside the joint, can result in persistent inflammation, tight muscles, restricted range of motion, and chronic discomfort. SI dysfunction can result in sciatica-like pain that travels through your buttock and into your hamstring or calf if it aggravates the nerve that is located right above the joint.