Have you ever felt a chronic, burning pain that spreads from your lower hip running down to your foot? Is it just as painful sitting down or standing up? You might be suffering from sciatica.
Sciatica, as the name implies, affects the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the single longest nerve in the body. It originates from the lower lumber region of your spine, through the pelvis, through the hind portion of your leg down to your foot. It is mainly responsible for distributing blood to the back of our lower extremities.
The most common causes of sciatica are: a herniated disc, lumbar spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, trauma, piriformis syndrome, and spinal tumors. When one suffers from a herniated disc, there is an inflammation or bulging of the spinal disc causing it to protrude out of the annulus. The annulus is the space between the spine where the spinal discs are located. Disc herniation could exert pressure on the nearby nerve root causing a direct compression on sensitive nerve tissues such as the sciatic nerve.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is almost the same as disc herniation in the sense that spinal nerves are pinched. In this case, though, the spinal canal shrinks, squeezing and applying too much pressure on the spinal nerve inside. The spinal nerve branches out of the spinal canal to the entire body through openings called as neural foramina. Once these passages are congested or narrowed, it causes nerve compression. If the blockage happens on these passageways, they’re considered foraminal stenosis. If it occurs on the opening where the sciatic nerve passes, it may cause sciatica.
Another cause can be spondylolisthesis, or more commonly known as slipped discs. It may also cause sciatica when a vertebral disc moves out of place and applies direct pressure to the spinal nerve adjacent to it, usually occuring on the lumbar or the lower portion of the spine. Blunt force trauma to the lower back region may cause severe damage to the spine and may cause sciatica as well. Accidents or external forces that may cause bone fractures like vehicular accidents, horse riding accidents, sports injuries may all lead to sciatica as bone fragments may occasionally be the cause of the nerve compression. The piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle spasms and compresses the sciatic nerve. In this case, the sciatic nerve running beneath the piriformis muscle may sometimes get irritated by movement of the said muscle.