What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition affecting the sciatic nerve which causes discomfort in the lower back and extremities as a result of an irritated sciatic nerve. Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in itself. It is a symptom of other medical conditions including lumbar herniated discs, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. The pain is usually found in the lower back and shooting down behind the thigh, possibly spreading down to the knee and ankle. It typically only affects one side of the body, but cases have been reported where pain radiates down both legs. Since the sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body, when it is irritated it causes severe discomfort. The pain is usually worse when sitting and can cause weakness and difficulty in moving. Sciatica is also known to present chronic pain on one side of the rear and with acute shooting pains which make it difficult to stand.
What Causes Sciatica?
Irritation of the root or roots of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine causes sciatica. The irritation can be a result of various issues including:
- Degenerative disc disease (breakdown of discs which can cause a herniated disc)
- Infections in or near the lumbar spine
- Irritation caused by a nearby bone, tumor, or muscle
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
- Spondylolisthesis (one vertebra has slipped forward over another one)
Other factors which can make a person’s back pain worse include not exercising regularly, being overweight, wearing uncomfortable shoes like high heels, or sleeping on an overly soft mattress.