Irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which extends down the lower back, buttocks and leg, causes sciatica, Medical News Today states. The condition is usually a symptom of spinal complications, such as slipped discs, tumors or infections. Physical inactivity or occupational lifting can contribute to the condition.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is one of the most common causes of sciatica. The condition triggers harmful spinal cord constriction in the lower back, putting excessive pressure on the nerves, according to WebMD. Similarly, spondylolisthesis, known as a slipped disc, pinches the nerve when one vertebra, or spinal bone, slides out of alignment, notes Medical News Today. Since spinal discs normally provide cushion between two vertebrae, degenerative disc disease can also cause sciatica when friction between nearby vertebrae produces bony protrusions that crowd spinal nerves, says WebMD.
Sciatica usually develops on one side of the body, but it can cause sharp radiating pain at any section of the nerve, WebMD explains. An individual may experience burning leg pain or constant soreness in the buttocks, especially when sitting. Attempting to stand often worsens the symptoms, and the individual may occasionally feel numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg or foot.
Acute sciatica usually improves within four to eight weeks with home treatment, such as hot and cold packs and over-the-counter pain relievers, Medical News Today notes. In chronic cases, doctors may suggest physical therapy, chiropractic adjustment or surgery.