Sciatica Causes

A number of underlying changes in spinal health can trigger the unusual sciatic nerve compression and irritation found in people affected by sciatica.

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Primary Causes of Sciatica

The single most likely cause of sciatica is a bulging disc (or its cousin, a herniated disc) in the lower spine. This problem occurs when one of the cushion-like discs between the bones in the spinal column slips out of its normal position or ruptures. A disc that bulges in the lower back can easily put abnormal pressure on one of the sciatic nerve’s roots.

Another potential cause of the condition is spinal stenosis, a change in spine health characterized by unusual narrowing in at least one of the spaces that normally provide room for the passage of the spinal cord and its attached nerves. These spaces include the interior of the spinal canal, the openings that give passage to the nerve roots connected to the spinal cord and the openings between the spinal column’s individual bones (vertebrae). If spinal stenosis affects the lower back, it can overly restrict the amount of room available to the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica and Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is another potential sciatica cause. This condition stems from the accumulated damage that occurs in the spinal discs over time and involves a loss of disc flexibility, as well as loss of the ability to properly withstand the spinal stresses encountered in everyday life. If DDD occurs in the lower back, the spinal change it produces can directly or indirectly put excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Other Sciatica Causes

A fourth possible source of problems is a spinal condition called spondylolisthesis. People with this condition experience abnormal slippage between the relative positioning of two neighboring vertebrae. When vertebrae slip in this manner, the change in bone angle decreases the amount of room available for nerves passing out of the spinal column.

An ailment known as piriformis syndrome can also contribute to the onset of sciatica. This syndrome sets in when a muscle in the buttock, called the piriformis, goes into spasm or otherwise tightens up. In addition to producing pain in the buttocks area, this syndrome can also irritate the sciatic nerve, which runs close to the piriformis muscle on its way from the spine to the leg.

If you think you have one of the causes above, it may be time to talk to a doctor about your treatment options. North American Spine’s free MRI review gives you a chance to get a second opinion of your back or neck pain, and may help determine whether you are a candidate for an outpatient procedure.

How is Sciatica Treated?

Sciatica treatment depends on you – your specific physiology and how advanced your case is. The North American Spine medical team and your physician will thoroughly evaluate your situation and recommend a treatment plan to provide both maximum relief and minimum recovery time. Treatment plants are grouped into three categories:


Fusion or Stabilization