By: Donald R. Murphy, DC, FRCC, Medical Director, Care New England Spine Care Program

If you’re feeling back pain or a shooting, burning sensation that runs down the back of your leg, you may have sciatica. The challenge is figuring out the cause of this pain, which is simply a symptom and not a diagnosis. If you are suffering from sciatica, it is important to find the cause.

The common causes of sciatica are:

  1. Herniated disc. Discs are the cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. In the middle of the disc is a ball of gel. If part of this gel ruptures outside the disc, we call that a disc herniation. Sometimes, a disc herniation can irritate a nerve in your spine, causing pain to radiate down your leg.
  2. Spinal stenosis. This is a condition which bone spurs grow into the canal where the nerves of the spine are and compress the nerve. This can cause pain to run down the leg, particularly when walking.
  3. Piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle located deep in the buttock. When this muscle becomes tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause pain to run down the back of the leg.
  4. Sacroiliac joint problems. The sacroiliac joint is located between the hip bone and the base of the spine. When this joint becomes painful, it can cause pain in the back and buttock. At times, it can also cause pain to run down the back of the leg.

With so many potential causes for sciatica, to effectively treat the condition you need to get a correct diagnosis by seeing experts with the tools to identify and treat the causes of your pain. Most people can be treated with the most conservative methods available, but you may need to see injection specialists or surgeons for advanced treatment.

Contact Us

The Care New England Spine Care Program offers a team that includes primary spine practitioners, physical therapists, pain management specialists and other experts who can help diagnose and treat sciatica pain. For more information or to make an appointment, call (401) 728-2200.

Meet the Author

Dr. Murphy, is a primary spine practitioner who has nearly 30 years’ experience helping people return to productive, meaningful lives and has operated practices throughout Rhode Island. He cares for patients with problems such as back or neck pain, thoracic pain, disc pain, radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, whiplash, headache, and pregnancy-related lower back pain and has served on national expert panels crafting physician guidelines on neck and back pain and has helped implement other integrated spine care programs like the program at Care New England.