Tag Archives: Herniated Disc

Back Pain: The Causes & Symptoms Of Sciatica

Sciatica refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve that carries messages from the brain down the spinal cord to the legs. The pain of sciatica typically radiates down one side from the lower back into the leg, often below the knee. The most common cause is a bulging (“herniated”) disc in the lower back. Discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. If the outer rim of the disc tears, usually due to routine pressure on the lower back, the jelly-like inner material can come out and pinch or inflame the nearby nerve. Sciatica is most common in people 30 to 50.

How do you know if it is sciatica?

The key to diagnosing sciatica is a thorough history and a focused exam. Sciatica symptoms are often worse with sitting or coughing and may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the leg. A physical exam can confirm that the sciatic nerve is involved. If there is muscle weakness or diminished reflexes in the involved leg, an imaging test such as a back MRI can be useful and help guide a decision for early surgery.  

Back Pain: The Symptoms And Causes Of Sciatica

Most sciatica is caused by problems that affect the L4L5, or S1 nerve roots. The nerve may be compressed or irritated, usually because it’s being rubbed by a disc, bone, joint, or ligament. The resulting inflammation makes the tis­sues and the nerves more sensitive and the pain feel worse.

Damage to or pinching of the sciatic nerve, or the nerves that feed into it, can have several causes.

Herniated disc

One of the most common causes of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower part of the spine. It’s also called a slipped disc, though there’s no slipping going on.

Spinal discs are tucked between the vertebrae, where they act as cushions to keep the bones from touching one another. The discs absorb all the forces placed on the spine from walking, running, sitting, twisting, lifting, and every other activ­ity we do. They also absorb forces from falls, collisions, and other accidents.

Spinal stenosis

The spinal canal protects the spinal cord and the nerves that run up and down the spine. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. When this occurs, nerves can be compressed, causing pain. Because the lumbar verte­brae undergo the most consistent stress and support the most weight, lumbar stenosis is the most common type of spinal stenosis.

Spondylolisthesis

The bones of the spine are stacked on top of one another, separated by discs. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one spinal bone slips forward in relation to the bone below it. When the L4 vertebra moves over the L5 vertebra, it can cause a kink in the spinal canal leading to pressure on a nerve root and sciatica.

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