Different Causes of Sciatica

Patient Suffering From Back Pain

Originating in the lower back or hip, sciatica is a sharp, shooting, radiating pain that runs down the back of the thigh, buttocks, and possibly into the calf. This can make it extremely difficult to complete simple, everyday tasks. Some cases can be very debilitating making it impossible to get comfortable. In Northern New Jersey, Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics has helped numerous patients by providing comprehensive and coordinated care for sciatica as well as conditions related to sciatica. Here, we take a closer look at the most common sciatica causes.

Herniated Disks

The lower back (lumbar spine) carries a significant amount of weight and is constantly in motion, making spinal discs susceptible to injury and pain. Injury to a disc can cause the inner soft core to migrate from its normal position and push against the fibrous outer layers. It is also possible for the soft material to leak out by tearing the fibrous rings.

Discs are typically located close to the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. When a disc becomes herniated, it can leak out chemical substances to inflame one or more of the sciatic nerve roots. This causes pain and neurological symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, and/or weakness, to travel down from the affected nerve root into the leg and foot.

Degenerative Disk Disease

During the aging process, the water and protein content of cartilage changes, resulting in weaker, more fragile, and thinner cartilage. Because both the discs and joints that stack the vertebrae are partly composed of cartilage, these areas are subject to wear and tear over time (degenerative changes), leading to degenerative disc disease. Disc degeneration that affects the lumbar spine can cause low back pain or irritation of a spinal nerve, resulting in sciatica.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more of the 26 levels of the space within the spinal column. This narrowing will put pressure on the spinal cord as it travels through the corresponding level of the spinal canal. If the spinal stenosis occurs at the lumber level of the spine, the patient may experience bilateral sciatica.

Foraminal Stenosis

Much like spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramina of the vertebral bodies, caused by the arthritic enlargement of the facet joint or the foramina. Foraminal stenosis may also be due to a herniated disc. Once pressure is put on the nerve root that exits via the foramina, numbness, weakness, and or tingling will occur at the corresponding nerve root level. If the affected foramina is at the spine level of L1-l2 or more, the patient will experience sciatica on the same side of the body as the foraminal stenosis.


Arthritis is the inflammatory process that occurs in bones and joints. When it occurs in the spine, it is called spondylosis. The patient experiences swelling and tenderness of the corresponding area. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage in the spine to break down. If there is osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or pseudoarthrosis in the spine, the cartilage in that area degenerates over time. As this condition progresses, the sciatic nerve can become irritated. In some instances, spondylosis can cause sciatica.

NJ’s Most Comprehensive Facility for Alleviating Sciatic Pain

The dedicated surgical and non-surgical team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics understands the impact that sciatica can have on the quality of life. At CNSO, patients will receive extensive and coordinated care to effectively treat sciatica pain, so they can resume a healthy, less painful lifestyle. Sciatica can be treated with physical therapy or pain management. By working with the CNSO leading specialized physical therapists, interventional pain management physicians, board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, physiatrists, and rehabilitation specialists, sciatica can be quickly resolved. To learn more about sciatica causes and treatments CNSO offers throughout Northern New Jersey in Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties, please contact CNSO today.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics