What Causes Sciatica?

What Causes Sciatica?

Living with sciatica can be challenging. The shooting, burning pain can strike seemingly out of nowhere and take you by surprise. Getting an appropriate diagnosis is the first hurdle. Fortunately, once it’s diagnosed, there are treatment options available to help you get the relief you need.

A sciatica diagnosis often brings a feeling of comfort because you know the cause of your pain. If you have sciatica, you may wonder how it happened. Visiting a spine specialist is the first step to getting answers to your questions. 

Orthopedic surgeon Thomas Jones II, MD, and our team at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas can help you get a prompt diagnosis so that you know the cause of your pain. Sciatica treatment often begins with nonsurgical approaches, and many patients find their pain responds well to these noninvasive treatments. 

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the largest (and longest) nerve in the body. It branches from the lower back and runs down both sides of the buttocks and down the back of each leg. Sciatica occurs when something irritates or compresses the sciatic nerve, causing severe pain that radiates along the nerve’s path. 

If you have sciatica, you may experience:

Pain typically occurs on one side of the body. That’s because you have two sciatic nerve branches, one on each side of the body. The sciatic nerve is made up of five nerve roots that come together to form the left and right sciatic nerve.

What causes sciatica?

Direct injury to the sciatic nerve is rare. Instead, sciatica typically develops as the result of an irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. It can come on gradually or suddenly. The following are three of the most common causes of sciatica. 

Herniated disc

A herniated disc happens when one of the rubbery disks that cushions the vertebrae of your spine ruptures and presses against or irritates a nearby nerve. Two nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve form in the lower back (lumbar spine). When a herniated disc occurs in the lumbar spine region, it can press against the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica. 

Bone spurs

Bone spurs are bony projections that tend to form where bones meet each other. These bony growths can also form anywhere along the spine, and when they do, they’re often the result of joint issues such as osteoarthritis. A bone spur that develops in the lumbar spine area can irritate the sciatic nerve, causing the characteristic symptoms of sciatica. 

Lumbar spinal stenosis

The spinal canal is a narrow, hollow space that houses the spinal cord. Nerve roots travel outside of the spinal canal. Changes, usually age-related, can cause the spinal canal to become narrow and compress nearby nerve roots causing lumbar spinal stenosis. This narrowing in the lumbar spine region is a common cause of sciatica. 

Treating sciatica

A combination of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication is often the initial approach to managing sciatica, and many patients find that their pain responds well to these conservative treatments. 

Surgical treatment may be appropriate if your symptoms fail to respond to nonsurgical therapies. The goal of surgery is to relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve to alleviate the pain and other associated symptoms. 

Dr. Jones II specializes in minimally invasive surgery and is happy to evaluate your condition and discuss your options. 

Help for sciatica pain

You don’t have to live with the pain of sciatica. We’re here to help you get relief so that you feel better and can do the things you enjoy. To get started, call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jones II. We have offices in Pearland, Houston, and Lake Jackson, Texas.

New and existing patients can als use our telemedicine services to access top-quality spine and joint care. You can schedule your televisit by clicking here

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