Causes of Sciatica
The Sciatic Nerve
Five pairs of nerve roots that come together to create the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve extends from the spinal cord to the buttocks and hips and then down the back of the legs. Nerve roots from the sciatic nerve are components of the body’s nervous system, which allows the transmission of pain and sensations to other areas of the body. The term “sciatica” refers to a set of symptoms that indicate a problem occurring in the sciatic nerve. Sciatica symptoms may be irritating but mild, or they can be intense and disabling. Sometimes, this painful condition resolves after a couple of weeks or it can last for years.
Ruptured Disk or Herniated Disk
Cartilage pads called disks separate the bones in your spine. These soft, rubbery shock absorbers cushion your spine as you move, and they allow your spine to bend. Each disk consists of an inner gel-like material and a thick outer cartilage casing. When the center of the disk forces its way through the outer covering, it can put pressure on the spinal nerves. These nerves are extremely sensitive, so pressure from a herniated disk can cause intense pain, weakness, numbness, tingling and leg pain. The spinal nerves can also become irritated and inflamed from the jelly-like material that leaks out of the ruptured disk. A herniated disk can occur after a sudden fall or accident. Disks can also flatten, dry up and weaken as you age, which makes them more likely to rupture.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis in the lower back may be another cause of sciatic pain. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing in the areas of your spinal canal. Within your vertebrae is the spinal canal, which protects the spinal cord. Normally, there is a little extra room around the spinal cord nerves so they are not compressed. The spinal canal may become narrow when ligaments get thicker or bony spurs grow. Narrowing in the lumbar area can pinch and irritate spinal nerves and the spinal cord. Lumbar spinal stenosis may cause pain, weakness and numbness of the legs, feet and buttocks. This condition is the result of the wear and tear of your spine that occurs as you age.