What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?

back pain

Sciatica is one of the most common complaints from our patients. Here’s what causes this common source of lower back pain, and how it can be treated.

Ever experienced an ache or pain in your lower back region? You’re not in alone: in fact, 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain at any given moment, and its interference in nearly every aspect of a patient’s life makes it the single leading cause of disability in the world.

That’s why lower back pain should be treated as quickly as possible. In many cases, it stems from lumbar radiculopathy, better known as sciatica. A symptom of an underlying problem rather than a condition in itself, sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerves in the lower back are pinched or compressed. It’s typically marked by pain, numbness, and tingling in the lower back and leg, all of which can significant detract from a patient’s quality of life.

If you’re suffering from sciatica, we’re here to help you understand the cause of your pain and guide you to an appropriate course of treatment.


While sciatica isn’t a medical condition in and of itself, it is a common symptom of many orthopedic disorders. The most common of these include:

  • Lumbar Disc Herniation: The intervertebral discs are cartilaginous cushions that sit between the vertebrae of the spine, helping the spine withstand pressure and enjoy a complete range of motion while supporting the upper body. When a disc in the lumbar region (the lower back) is torn, the material inside of it begins to protrude outward, aggravating adjacent nerves in the process. The irritated nerves can then cause sciatic pain.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s typically caused by wear and tear over time, but it can also be a product of osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, or a herniated disc. If the spinal canal becomes too narrow, it can pinch or compress the surrounding spinal nerves, resulting in sciatica.
  • Piriformis Syndrome: Piriformis syndrome is a condition caused by a spasm of the piriformis, a muscle located at the base of the spine. When this occurs, the spasming piriformis can irritate the nearby sciatic nerve, resulting in pain and numbness.

In rare cases, sciatic nerve pain can also result from a tumor or diabetes. Some simple diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can help your orthopedic specialist pinpoint the root of your sciatica.

Causes of Sciatica


Treatment for sciatica depends on the specific condition responsible for it. Regardless of the cause, however, it usually responds quite well to nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy and gentle exercise. Other nonsurgical solutions include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone injections. Surgery is necessarily only in severe cases characterized by extensive nerve damage.

If you’re suffering from sciatic nerve pain, we at New York Bone & Joint Specialists stand ready to help. With over two decades of experience in treating spinal conditions, our own Dr. Michael Y. Mizhiritsky can apply his expertise and warm bedside manner at every stage of treatment, helping you craft a personalized plan to target the root of your sciatica and seek lasting relief. Call us today to schedule a consultation

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