The six common problems in the lower back causing sciatica include:

Lumbar herniated disc

A disc gets herniated when the nucleus pulposus (the inner soft core of the disc) protrudes out through the annulus or the fibrous outer core. This then causes the irritation of the adjacent nerve root. A herniated disc is also known as a protruding disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc, pinched nerve or a slipped disc. The most common symptom of a lumbar herniated disc is sciatica.

Degenerative disc disease

Typically aging is the natural cause of disc degeneration and some old people experience sciatica when one or more discs that have degenerated begin to irritate a nerve root of the sciatic nerve. When the doctor sees that the inflammatory agents in the interior of the disc become exposed and start to affect the nerve roots and the surrounding areas and when a weakened disc causes too much micro-motion at that spinal level, he can then diagnose the patient as suffering from degenerative disc disease.

Isthmic spondylolisthesis

Isthmic spondylolisthesis happens when a person suffers a small stress fracture that causes one vertebral body to slip forward on another. A combination of a vertebral component slipping forward, the fracture, and the disc space collapse can all result in a pinched nerve and sciatica.

Lumbar spinal stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis can result in sciatica because of the constricting of the spinal canal. This condition is associated with the aging process and typically affects people 60 years old and above. Lumbar spinal stenosis happens due to one or more of the following conditions: a ruptured disc pressuring the nerve roots, an overgrowth of soft tissue and enlarged facet joints, all potentially causing sciatica pain.

Piriformis syndrome

Sometimes the piriformis muscle located in the buttocks may pressure a sciatic nerve causing sciatica.  Piriformis syndrome entails that the piroformis muscle for some reason or another pinches or irritates a nerve root of the sciatic nerve causing a type of pain that is similar to sciatica. Although not considered real sciatica, the pain in the leg can be as severe as sciatica pain as it is the result of an irritated nerve.

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint which is at the bottom of the spine can potentially irritate the L5 nerve (located on top of the sacroiliac joint) thereby causing sciatica-like pain. The pain in the leg can be as painful as sciatica since it is caused by an irritated nerve.

More Causes of Sciatica

Besides the aforementioned common lower back problems causing sciatica and sciatica-type pains, there are other issues that can lead to sciatica. These include:

  • Infection – Though rare, an infection in the lower back can still cause nerve root irritation leading to sciatica
  • Spinal tumor – During rare moments, a spinal tumor can encroach on a nerve root in the lower back causing symptoms of sciatica
  • Muscle strain – Occasionally, a muscle strain can cause inflammation that affects a nerve root leading to sciatica.
  • Scar tissue – An internal scar tissue can develop near the sciatic nerve and lean on it which can cause sciatic pain.
  • Pregnancy – Major body changes occurring during pregnancy like the gaining of weight can cause the body’s center of gravity to change which can cause tissues and body parts to put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing sciatica. Also pregnancy brings about hormonal changes that can also result in sciatica during pregnancy.


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