3 Top causes of Sciatica and what to do about them
If you are experiencing the pain of sciatica my heart goes out to you. I know firsthand how painful and disabling this condition can be.
The unremitting pain, the burning, the throbbing…Well, if you’ve never experienced it, you just can’t relate.
Before we get into the Top 3 causes it is important to first understand the Sciatic Nerve.
The Sciatic nerve is the largest and longest in your body.
The nerve is created by 5 nerve roots from the spinal cord. These nerve roots are all in the lower back. Once these nerve roots come together to form the sciatic nerve they travel from the lower back all the way to the foot, on both sides.
This is what makes Sciatica’s symptoms so varied.
Because the nerve travels so far, it is possible to have pain anywhere along the course of the nerve. It could be pain in the buttock or the heal, or any point in between.
Although the symptoms can vary widely, the causes rarely do.
The top 2 causes are really the same thing.
By far the most common cause of sciatica is osteoarthritis of the lower back vertebrae. As the vertebrae degenerate their edges start to grow. This overgrowth creates what are called “bone spurs.” These spurs can grow into the opening the nerve root passes through, which can cause an irritation of the entire sciatic nerve.
Or, the osteoarthritis can lead to the disc breaking down and getting thinner.
A disc has two main jobs:
- The disc acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae.
- The disc acts as a spacer creating room between the vertebrae.
The degeneration, or thinning of the disc, decreases the amount of room the nerve root has to pass through since the space has been reduced. This can lead to pressure being exerted on the nerve root which causes irritation of the sciatic nerve.
So osteoarthritis is the number 1 cause. But…
osteoarthritis also leads to the cause number 2. Disc Herniation.
What most people are surprised to learn, it is impossible for a healthy disc to herniate, slip or bulge. The amount of force it would take to herniate a healthy disc, would cause the vertebrae above and/or below to be crushed first.
Therefore, for a disc to herniate, slip or bulge, there must be degeneration to the vertebrae above and/or below first. This problem with the vertebrae will lead to a weakness in the disc that allows the disc to then herniate.
As the disc herniates, it can place pressure on?…You guessed it, the nerve root. This can cause irritation of the entire sciatic nerve. Therefore,
Osteoarthritis must be present…
for bone spurs to form and for discs to herniate, slip or bulge. These conditions all lead to nerve roots having pressure placed on them, which cause irritation of the nerve root which causes inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
Cause number 3, the Piriformis muscle.
The what? Most people have never heard of the piriformis muscle. It is a relatively small muscle located in your buttock, (you have one on each side). Here is how it relates to sciatica…
the sciatic nerve travels right in front of the piriformis muscle. If you have any contraction or problem with that muscle it can place pressure directly onto the sciatic nerve and create pain.
This is much different than the first two causes, which place pressure on the nerve root as it enters the sciatic nerve. The piriformis makes contact with the fully formed sciatic nerve.
Here is the bad news…
The symptoms created by the 3 top causes can be identical, so there is no definitive way to diagnosis the cause by symptoms alone.
But here is the good news…
The Top 3 causes are all related to the same thing,
Lack of normal motion. Lack of normal motion of the vertebrae, or the bones of the hip and/or pelvis. It is this lack of normal motion that starts the vicious cycle of osteoarthritis to begin. It is lack of normal motion in the bones of the leg, hip or pelvis which leads to contraction of muscles like the piriformis.
Every bone or joint in your body, if it is designed to move, must move to stay healthy. If it’s normal motion is restricted it will start to degenerate. It is this degeneration that can lead to creation of symptoms, like sciatica.
This is where I can help.
For the past 28 years, at my office in San Mateo, I have been helping patients restore normal motion to joints that have lost their ability to move normally on their own.
This is accomplished in a natural, safe and effective way without the use of drugs, shots or surgery.
There is no, “Living with,” sciatica. We have helped thousands of patients get back to pain free living. When you are ready, we are here to help.