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What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?

It’s a pain that radiates from your lower back down through your buttocks and into your legs, usually only on one side of your body. But it’s not as easy to define or classify sciatic nerve pain, commonly known as sciatica, as it is for other kinds of acute and chronic pain, like arthritis.

The symptoms of sciatica can include mild sensations, or severe, shooting pains. You could feel it immediately after something like heavy lifting, or you could experience worsening symptoms gradually. And, while it often corrects itself in a few weeks, it can also be a chronic condition. Depending on its definition, anywhere from less than 1% of the population, to over 40%, may suffer sciatica at some point in their life, usually in their 40s and 50s.


Part of the reason for the varied intensity of symptoms and their duration is the wide variety of causes of sciatica.

5 Common Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain

The basic trigger of sciatic nerve pain is the sciatic nerve being pinched, which can have a number of causes.  

  1. A Herniated Disk – This is the most frequent cause of sciatica. A herniated disc can press on a lumbar or sacral nerve root and trigger sciatic pain.
  2. Spinal Stenosis – Spinal stenosis is a condition that narrows the spine, which compresses the spinal cord and sciatic nerve. A bone spur on the spine can cause the same symptoms.
  3. Piriformis Syndrome – In a small number of cases, the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis muscle in your buttocks, instead of underneath it. Overuse or an injury can cause the muscle to shorten or spasm, which can compress the sciatic nerve.
  4. Pregnancy – Especially during the later stages of pregnancy, the weight of the fetus can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  5. Other Causes – Sciatica may also be caused by tumours and spinal compression due to an injury, like the one you may get in a car accident or by falling onto your buttocks.


If you feel you may be suffering from sciatic nerve pain, visit our Markham physical therapy clinic for expert treatment.


If you liked this post, check out our recent article about how long it takes to recover from a concussion.



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