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4 Unexpected Causes of Sciatica

4 Unexpected Causes of Sciatica

As many as 40% of Americans have sciatica, lower back pain that causes pain, tingling, numbness, and other symptoms in the back and legs. Sciatica happens when a branch of the long sciatic nerve is compressed or pinched where it exits the lower part of your spine before traveling down your leg. 

Sciatica can cause an array of symptoms around your lower back, buttocks, and legs. Without prompt, appropriate medical care, the nerve can become permanently damaged, causing ongoing pain, weakness, balance problems, and even symptoms of incontinence.

While a slipped or herniated disc is a leading cause of sciatica, it’s not the only cause. Knowing what other conditions can cause sciatica pain plays an important role in getting the right treatment and relief for your pain.

With locations in Boonton, Pompton Plains, and Jersey City, New Jersey, Jersey Integrative Health and Wellness is a leading and trusted provider of sciatica treatments with tailored therapies to address the root cause of painful symptoms. In this post, our team reviews four lesser-known causes of painful sciatica symptoms.

Spinal stenosis

Stenosis means narrowing, and in spinal stenosis, the space inside your spinal canal narrows, pressing in on the nerves inside the canal. Spinal stenosis can occur anywhere in your spine, but when it occurs in your lower back, it can press on your sciatic nerve. 

Spinal stenosis becomes more common with age, and it can be associated with spinal arthritis and the formation of bone spurs, an overgrowth of bone tissue that forms along the edges of your bones including vertebrae. Other causes include past spine surgery, trauma, tumors, and some diseases that affect your bones or joints.


Your vertebrae are stacked one on top of another to form your spine. Spondylolisthesis is a condition that happens when one vertebra slides forward over the vertebra located below it. When that happens in your lower back, the shift can press on your sciatic nerve as it leaves your spine.

Lots of factors can cause or contribute to spondylolisthesis, including traumatic injuries, spine abnormalities, and age-related degenerative changes in the spine. Like the other causes on this list, early intervention is essential to prevent permanent nerve damage.

Piriformis syndrome

Unlike the first two items in the list that focus on problems with your spine bones, this lesser-known sciatica cause involves a muscle located deep in your buttocks — the piriformis muscle. This large muscle helps stabilize and mobilize your hip joint when you walk, bend, or perform other movements involving your hips.

In piriformis syndrome, the piriformis muscle is excessively tight and prone to spasms, sometimes causing muscle inflammation. When the muscle contracts, it can press against the sciatic nerve. Luckily, this particular sciatica cause responds well to physical therapy and gentle stretching.


More than 40% of Americans have obesity, and of those, over 9% have severe obesity. While many people know extra pounds increase your risks of heart disease and arthritis, not many understand the link between excess weight and sciatica pain.

When you’re overweight or obese, the extra weight puts excess strain on your lower back, particularly if you carry that extra weight around your belly area. Over time, the strain compresses the sciatic nerve, leading to painful symptoms. Carrying extra pounds also increases your risk of herniated discs, a primary cause of sciatica. 

Relief for sciatica

Our team takes a comprehensive approach to sciatica treatment, focusing on an array of treatments, like acupuncture, physical therapy, injection therapy, and minimally invasive treatments, combined with lifestyle changes to promote optimal spine health. 

To learn how we can help you relieve your sciatica symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone at Jersey Integrative Health and Wellness today.

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