Sciatica is a symptomatic term that describes leg pain caused by the compression/irritation of any of the branches of the Sciatic nerve. The pain often moves into the buttock, then the back or side of the thigh, and then travels down into the calf. The pain can even shoot into the feet and toes. The source of the pain is caused by irritation to the lumbar nerves that leave the spine as they begin to form the branches of the sciatic nerve.
Anything that encroaches on or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve can be considered a cause of sciatica. Commons causes of sciatica include:
Lumbar disc herniation directly pressing on the nerve, in addition to inflammation that irritates the nerve.
Degenerative joint disease resulting in the formation of bony spurs on the facet joints can narrow the intervertebral space placing pressure on the exiting nerve.
Trauma or muscle spasm can put pressure on the peripheral nerve, producing symptoms along that nerve’s distribution
Degenerative disc disease that results in wear on the intervertebral disc, and a reduction in disc height may result in loss of space at the intervertebral foramen compressing on the exiting nerve.
Tightness of the piriformis muscle resulting in compression on the sciatic nerve underlying the muscle.
Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another one)
Lower back pain
Pain in the back or radicular to the buttock, into the leg and extending down behind the knee, to the foot depending on the nerve involved and the severity of the encroachment.
Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
Numbness or paraesthesia (tingling) may be experienced from the low back to the foot depending on the distribution of the affected nerve.
Pain and tenderness localized at the level of the involved nerve
Loss of motion like the inability to bend backward, move sideways to the effected side, or stand erect for extended periods of time
Burning or tingling down the leg
Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
A constant pain on one side of the rear
Loss of the normal lumbar curvature or lordosis.
Development of stenotic-like symptoms
Stiffness in the joints following a period of rest.
A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up