Sciatica is a painful symptom caused by several different medical problems that all put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which travels runs down your back, through your butt, and into your leg. As a result, the symptoms often affect all three areas, causing pain or numbness along all three areas.
Sciatic pain is caused by a number of health problems, including:
A Bulging or Herniated Disc
The discs that cushion each vertebrae in your spine are filled with a gel like substance. When this bulges out at a weak point in the outer wall of the disc, it can press on the nerve root connecting your nerve to your spinal chord. Your nerve is trapped directly between the disc and the bone of your spine, so it doesn’t take much. This is called a bulging disc, and can cause sciatic pain.
A herniated disc is when this outer wall breaks, and the substance actually leaks out around the nerve root, putting pressure on it directly. This is not only more pressure than a bulging disc causes, but the substance itself is acidic, and will attack and inflame the nerve directly. This can lead to muscle weakness and significant sciatica symptoms.
Very severe cases may require surgery, though pain can often be treated by a chiropractor.
There are different types of spinal stenosis, but they all work the same way. The bony pathways that protect your nerves as they run from your spinal chord out into your body can grow narrower from osteoarthritis or other conditions and put pressure on your nerves, causing sciatic pain. This type of disease affects older people, generally middle aged and beyond, and cannot be treated by a chiropractor, and instead requires surgery.
This condition occurs when one of your vertebrae either has a malformed or injured joint. All of your vertebrae have joints that connect them together, but allow them to remains flexible. Imperfect development or a back injury from weightlifting or other activities, can cause one of these vertebrae to slip out of its joint and misalign with the rest of the spine.
This obviously puts pressure on the nerves surrounding the vertebrae, and can cause sciatica. It can be treated by a chiropractor, though the damaged joint will never work perfectly again, and many activities like weightlifting or other things that stress your back can cause the vertebrae to slip out and misalign again, requiring another readjustment.
Direct Nerve Injury
Any kind of direct trauma, from a car accident or other impact, can damage the sciatic nerve, and cause sciatica.
A rarer issue from trauma can come from broken bones, when actual bone fragments press into the nerve and cause direct pain.
Finally, sciatica can be caused by growths in the tissue along your spine. These may be benign or malignant, but either way, they can compress the nerve and cause the symptoms.
If you have sciatica, make sure to go to a doctor and get a diagnosis to determine what is causing your symptoms, and consider treatment options from there.