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Learn about the causes of Sciatica & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Sciatica within New Zealand.

Sciatica is pain in the lower back or leg caused by damage to or compression of the sciatic nerve. The pain can be mild or severe, is usually only experienced in one leg, and can be accompanied by numbness or tingling.


Causes of sciatica Sciatica | The Wellness Directory

The sciatic nerve runs from the pelvis, through the buttocks and legs and ends at the feet. When something compresses or irritates the nerve, pain travels from the lower back, down the leg and into the calf muscle.

The majority of sciatica cases are caused by physical wear and tear particularly in those who have physical occupations and are over the age of 40. Other common causes of sciatica include a slipped disc, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis.

Slipped disc

A slipped disc, also known as a herniated disc, is the common cause of sciatica and occurs when the cushion of cartilage (known as the disc) between the vertebrae becomes hard and brittle. Repeated strain on the spine can cause the cartilage disc to split and the soft tissue inside the disc presses on the sciatic nerve.

Spinal stenosis

A long tube within the spine which contains nerves can begin to narrow with age. If this narrowing occurs in the lower back, the sciatic nerve can become compressed.


This condition affects the cartilage discs. When the discs degenerate they can become too weak to support the spine resulting in vertebrae slipping forward over the one below and compressing the sciatic nerve.

Pregnancy can also cause sciatica due to either the uterus pressing on the nerve or from vertebral compression from carrying extra weight. In rare cases, sciatica can be a sign of a spinal infection or growth.


Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica is often confused with general back pain however sciatic pain is not limited to the back and can affect the buttocks and legs. Symptoms include numbness and weakness in the legs and feet with accompanied pins and needles in the feet (although not in all cases).

A rare form of sciatica known as 'cauda equine syndrome' permanently damages the nervous system and can lead to paralysis if left untreated. A warning sign of this condition is a loss of bladder or bowel control. If you suffer with sciatica and experience this you should seek emergency medical assistance immediately.


Diagnosis of sciatica
Short-term sciatica (lasting less than six weeks) usually resolves itself and does not normally require a diagnosis or treatment. However, if symptoms persist beyond six weeks or are severe then you should visit your GP.

A GP will confirm sciatica by getting you to perform a passive straight leg raise test. While lying on your back with legs straight, the GP will ask you to raise one leg while they raise your foot. If you experience pain then this is an indication of sciatica.

Certain factors will 'red flag' the condition or be an indication of a spinal infection or even cancer.

These include:

  • Being over 50 with no previous back pain problems
  • Being under 20 with no previous back pain problems
  • A history of cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever or chills
  • Recent bacterial infection (e.g. UTIs)
  • Injecting illegal drugs
  • HIV
To rule out infections, the GP will refer you for blood tests and may recommend an X-ray. If the risk is significant, you may be referred for an MRI scan to detect any spinal nerve problems.


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