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What Causes Sciatica?


Starting in the lower back area and going down into the hips and parts of the legs, the sciatic nerve is the longest single nerve in the human body. Its prime location at the base of the spine also makes it a common source of discomfort when it gets irritated or compressed, a condition referred to as sciatica. Today, we're focusing on why you may get sciatica and what can be done to treat or prevent it.

Herniated Discs

If a disc in the lower back slips out of place or reaches a point where inner disc material is pushing outward, the sciatic nerve may be irritated in some way. This is called a
herniated disc, and it’s one of the more common reasons for sciatica.

 Here is a quick video explaining surgery for a lumbar herniated disc:

Bone Spurs & Other Sciatica Causes

You may also get sciatica if there's a bony overgrowth in your lower back area. Also referred to as osteophytes and commonly called bone spurs, these overgrowths sometimes develop on spinal bones and affect the sciatic nerve. Other possible—and less common—sciatica causes include:

• Spinal tumors
• Damage from diabetes or other chronic conditions that affect nerves
• Sudden trauma to the lower back area that shifts a spinal disc

Piriformis Muscle Irritation

Located in the buttocks region, the piriformis muscle can swell or develop spasms due to overuse. Because this muscle is right below the sciatic nerve where it exits the spine, an irritated piriformis muscle is another possible reason you may get sciatica or sciatica-like symptoms. What's termed piriformis syndrome is a bit different, since it's not actually caused by a compressed sciatic nerve.

Sciatic Risk Factors

You could also get sciatica if certain risk factors apply to you. Age is one of the top ones. This is because spinal discs dry out and lose some height over time, which causes these structures to become less spongy. As a result, age-affected discs are more susceptible to the type of damage that can affect the sciatic nerve. Excess weight can also contribute to changes within your lower spine area that irritate or affect the sciatic nerve. Additional risk factors linked to sciatica include:

• Prolonged sitting
• Poor posture as you sit or sleep
• An occupation that requires a lot of twisting, heavy lifting, and/or bending

There may also be a genetic connection to sciatica. This makes having a family history of this condition another potential risk factor.

Treatment & Prevention

Treatment for
sciatica typically involves a combination of medication to reduce discomfort and inflammation and physical therapy techniques that usually include therapeutic exercises. Steroid injections may be recommended as well. If a herniated disc is what's irritating your sciatic nerve, surgery may become an option. When it comes to preventing sciatica, you may be able to accomplish this goal by:

• Keeping your weight within a healthy range
• Avoiding long periods of sitting
• Getting regular exercise
• Eating tomatoes, green leafy veggies, nuts, almonds, and other foods that naturally ease inflammation

Patients who have had discectomies for herniated discs may experience sciatica if their discs become reherniated, which often occurs if there is a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there’s a new treatment shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy. Barricaid was proven 95 percent effective in a study of over 500 patients, meaning 95 percent of patients didn’t experience a reoperation due to reherniation in the 2-year study timeframe.

To learn more about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

For full benefit/risk information, please visit: