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What Is Sciatica and What Causes It?


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Sciatica is that nerve pain that runs down your leg and is not a condition in itself, but rather a symptom of a condition. It is caused by pressure being placed on the sciatic nerve, but yours is probably being caused by one of the following four conditions:

Causes of Sciatica

1) Piriformis Syndrome-This is the most common cause of sciatic pain and is created when pressure is placed on the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle. Muscle imbalances pull the hip joints and pelvis out of place and this change of position typically shortens and tightens the piriformis muscle, which then places pressure on the sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle the majority of the time. However, it occasionally will run through or around the piriformis muscle.  Whatever the case, muscle imbalances will cause major problems and are the underlying cause of piriformis syndrome.

  1. Muscle Imbalance–When a muscle overpowers the opposing muscle, you have a muscle imbalance that pulls them out of theirnormal alignment.When your muscles are out of balance they pull your bones and joints out of their normal position and this places your muscles, bones and joints under constant stress and uneven pressure. For example,  the position and curvature of your spine is determined by numerous muscles and whether they are balanced or not… There are over 600 muscles in the human body, nearly all of which have someimpacy on your spine.If just one of these muscles are out of balance you could end up with a sore back or sciatica.

  sciatica cause

2) Herrniated or Bulging Discs. Sciatica can also be caused by pressure on the nerve due to a herniated or bulging disc.

A herniation is when a disc protrudes out from between the vertebrae and this can either be caused by an event like a car accident or a football injury, or by months or years of uneven pressure due to muscle imbalances.

Unfortunately, no amount of ultrasound, electrical stimulation, medications, cortisone injections, general exercises or chiropractic adjustments can correct the muscles imbalances that have created your back pain or sciatica.
herniated disc
Herniated discs is probably one of the most common diagnoses for sciatica and often is  often used when a doctor can’t find an explanation for the person’s pain… similar to a doctor explaining away various aches and pains as arthritis.

In addition,research indicates that in many cases, some  people live with herniated discs yet never have any back pain or symptoms. The point is, if you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated or bulging disc, it may not be what’s really causing your back pain.  Even if you’ve had x-rays and MRI’s done that show a herniated disc, chances are still very good that it’s not the problem. The real "problem" is what caused your herniated or bulging disc. Unless your successful in answering this question, odds are your sciatica will remain.And nearly every herniated disc problem is the result of muscle imbalances.

3) Spinal Stenosis. Sciatica can also be caused by pressure on the nerve due to a narrowing of the spinal canal. There are
several possible conditions that lead to spinal stenosis:

  •  Aging–With age, the body’s ligaments (tough connective tissues between the bones in the spine)can thicken. Spurs (small growths) may develop on the bones and into the spinal canal. The facet joints(flat surfaces on each vertebra that form the spinal column) also may begin to thicken.
  • Trauma—Accidents and injuries may either dislocate the spine and the spinal canal or cause burst. Fractures that produce fragments of bone that penetrate the canal.
  • Heredity—If the spinal canal is too small at birth, symptoms of spinal stenosis may show up in a relatively young person. Structural deformities of the involved vertebrae can cause narrowing of the spinal canal.
  • Fluorosis—Fluorosis is an excessive level of fluoride in the body. It may result from chronicinhalation of industrial dusts or gases contaminated with fluorides, prolonged ingestion of water containing large amounts of fluorides, or accidental ingestion of fluoride-containing insecticides. The condition may lead to calcified spinal ligaments or softened bones and to degenerative conditions like spinal stenosis.

The most important thing you can do if you are certain you have spinal stenosis is to ensure that you maintain as close to normal curvature in the spine. The more your spine is pulled out of place the tighter the space gets in the spinal canal. Again, identifying and addressing muscle imbalances is crucial.

4) Isthmic Spondylolisthesis.  Sciatica can also be caused by Isthmic spondylolisthesis, yet is much less common. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebrae slips forward and places pressure on the adjacent vertebrae. This condition
will produce both a gradual deterioration of the vertebrae in the lower spine and can also cause a narrowing of the spinal canal.

If abnormal motion allows this vertebrae to move back and forth nerves in the spinal canal may be affected causing pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs. Many individuals who have this condition may not have symptoms while others may experience long term back pain and or sciatica.

Spondylolisthesis is most common in the lower spine. The most common cause is degenerative disease (like arthritis) and the slip usually occurs between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae where there is the most curvature in the spine. Muscle imbalances play a major role in two ways:

  • 1. Degenerative diseases like arthritis are much more common in areas of the body where there is uneven pressure and wear and tear.

  • 2. Muscle imbalances increase the amount of curvature in the lower spine making this condition much more likely to come about.

Other causes of spondylolisthesis include stress fractures (which are often caused by repetitive hyper-extension of the back, commonly seen in gymnasts), and traumatic fractures. Spondylolisthesis may also occasionally be associated with bone diseases. As with the other three conditions, muscle
imbalances have a lot to do with spondylolisthesis.

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Published by Stenosis Advisor

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