What Causes Sciatica Pain?

In general sciatica pain is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve or surrounding nerves around the lower part of the spine. This can often be the result of lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and pregnancy.

Sciatica Pain Causes

Sciatica is a term that is used to describe pain that radiates down the leg and is frequently caused by a pinched sciatic nerve, disc herniation and in some cases, arthritis in the lower back. Any condition that involves pressing down on the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica pain.

Much like the symptoms associated with sciatica pain, its causes can vary depending on the condition that is present. From problems with the muscles and ligaments surrounding the lumbar spine to direct damage or compression to the sciatic nerve itself, understanding what causes sciatica pain is crucial to properly diagnosing and effectively treating it.

Irritation of Lumbar and Lumbosacral Nerve Roots

In some cases, sciatica can be caused by irritation of the nerve roots in the lumbar and lumbosacral areas of the spine. Whether due to a tumor, diabetes or other condition this pressure on the sciatic nerve can create debilitating low back pain that can radiate into the lower extremities.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis, is a common cause of low-back pain which can secondarily place pressure on the sciatic nerve roots, resulting in sciatica pain. This condition is more common in adults over the age of 60 and involves the narrowing of the spinal canal in the low-back or lumbar part of the spine. The narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar spine can place pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerve branches, including the sciatic nerve. Often, lumbar stenosis in the low-back causes pain symptoms only when the nerves or spinal cord become squeezed. Patients who experience this condition often complain of pain in the low-back that seems to radiate down one or both legs and is worsened by prolonged activity, a key symptom of sciatica pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Although spinal disc degeneration is a normal part of aging, it can cause chronic and severe lumbar pain in some people, especially if it is pressing on the delicate surrounding nerves. Sciatica pain caused by degenerative disc disease may radiate into the hips, buttocks or thighs. Over time, the cushions (discs) between the vertebrae in the low-back begin to wear out and the bones themselves can become irregular. From this irregularity, the vertebrae can develop bone spurs that may limit the space between the vertebrae, thus pinching on surrounding nerve roots. As degenerative disc disease progresses, the low-back becomes less flexible, resulting in pain and stiffness.


This condition involves the slipping of one vertebra forward over another. Arthritis is often to blame for the development of spondylolisthesis. While its symptoms can range from mild to severe, this condition can cause sciatica pain in extreme cases and is characterized by tenderness and pain in the thighs and buttocks.


Pregnancy can be one cause of sciatica pain in women. The condition is more likely to develop during this time because the growing uterus is placing increased pressure on the sciatic nerve.

No matter what is causing the sciatica pain, no one should believe they have to just “live with it.” If you or someone you know needs help in getting to the bottom of what is causing their sciatica pain, the expert team at BASIC has the vast experience, advanced-training and specialty qualifications to help.

Health Tips For Sciatic Nerve Pain

  • Exercise daily – it helps reduce inflammation & muscle tension
  • Maintain a healthy body weight – extra pounds can make back pain worse
  • Quit smoking – it seriously restricts nutrient rich blood flow to the spinal discs
  • Sleep right – sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your lower back

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