There is no doubt that sciatica nerve pain is one of the more uncomfortable conditions out there. Some people may only feel a small portion of the symptoms, but for many, the pain is severe, it’s debilitating, and it can last for weeks or months on end. But why does it hurt so much, and what is it caused by? What causes sciatic buttock, leg, and back pain?
What Exactly is Sciatica?
Sciatic pain, usually felt in the buttock, but also the lower back and legs, is caused by problems with the sciatic nerve. This is a large nerve that runs from the lower back and down both legs can become pinched for different reasons.
These symptoms may start out in small dosages, while slowly increasing. This can last for days and even years. Some people end up needing surgery for removing a bulging disc, cleaning up bone spurs, and even fusing the lower spine. Others might be able to manage this pain through exercises and stretches.
Common Causes of Sciatica
There are a variety of things that can cause sciatic nerve pain, whether in the buttock, back, or the legs. Let’s take a look at the most common causes.
One cause of sciatica, a fairly common, is pregnancy. Women who are pregnant have a uterus which is growing in size. This often causes a lot of pressure on the sciatic nerve, therefore pinching it. However, what is a relief here is that sciatic pain in the buttock, legs, or back caused by pregnancy often goes away on its own once the pregnancy ends.
For anyone who is not pregnant, the leading cause of sciatica pain is a herniated disk. These disks in your spine act as cushions to keep the vertebrae of your spine in place, to provide buffering, and to keep them from touching each other. As you become older, these disks can become much weaker or moved out of place due to an injury or accident.
When this happens, those disks push through their outer linings and then press on the sciatic nerve. This then causes sciatic nerve pain in the back, buttock, and legs. Unfortunately, quite a large percentage of people will suffer from a herniated disk at least once in their lives, and for some, symptoms can last weeks or even months. In severe cases, surgery may be required to correct a herniated disk.
Yet another common cause of sciatica, especially in people over 50, is spinal stenosis. This is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the spinal column, and this in itself is often caused by arthritis or osteoarthritis. These conditions can weaken and break down the cartilage in your spine, and they can lead to the thickening of ligaments and bones spurs as well.
Whatever the exact cause, spinal stenosis can then cause sciatic nerve pain as a result. More often than not, treatment for spinal stenosis can be quite intense, and can take the form of strong medications, cortisol injections, and surgery. Other treatments known to work include heat and cold therapy, exercise, and weight loss. However, in cases where spinal stenosis is caused by age, especially in arthritic people, surgery and medication may be the only options.
Obesity and Sitting
Yes, your own lifestyle and choices can also cause the onset of sciatic pain, and least indirectly. It is shown that for one, people who sit and lay around a lot, and generally have a sedentary lifestyle have a much higher chance of developing sciatica than those who do not. Being active can help keep your body in shape and keep everything moving properly.
For instance, back exercises and stretches to keep your spin strong and in place, instead of sitting in front of the TV can go a long way. Related to this, obesity may also contribute to increased instances of sciatica. For one, being obese usually goes hand in hand with living a sedentary lifestyle. More so, being obese can also contribute to pressure being put on the spine, as well as spinal changes to due increased body weight, which then leads to sciatica.
Heavy Lifting and Twisting
Yet another cause of sciatica, or at least something which can lead to it, has to do with your profession. If you have a job where you often have to lift heavy loads, especially if you don’t lift properly (always lift with your legs, not your back!) it can cause spinal injuries of all kinds, and many spinal injuries can lead to sciatic pain.
Furthermore, if you have to twist and turn a lot, the same thing can happen. A quick turn in the wrong direction, especially if you are not flexible, can quickly lead to tweaking something in one way or another, and the final result is often sciatic pain. Another cause may be if you have a profession where you sit for long periods of time, although there is no evidence which is 100% conclusive in this regard.
Although a bit more research is needed here, it has been shown that diabetes, especially advanced diabetes causes nerve damage, and nerve damage often goes hand in hand with nerve pain, and since sciatica is nerve pain, it is fair to reason that diabetes may have some role to play in sciatica.
As you can see, there are a variety of factors which can lead to sciatic nerve pain. Some are more indirect in nature, such as profession, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle, which can then contribute to the onset of sciatica, and there are others, such as injury and age, which are more direct causes.
Here are some of our articles on how you can relieve the sciatica pain.