With the mad rush of the holiday season behind us, January is a great time to take care of yourself.  Have you been struggling with sciatic pain?   The cause of sciatica could be tricky and differs depending on numerous factors.    We’ll take a look at 4 other common causes of sciatica that you may not know about.

Most people who suffer from sciatica will ask me, is it a disc herniation?  To the surprise of many patients, sciatica caused by a true disc herniation actually is less common than you think1.  Some estimate that only 6% of cases are related to a disc herniation.

To clarify, what is Sciatica…?

The term refers to pain that spreads along the path of the sciatic nerve.  It often involves lower back pain but can spread to your hips, buttocks and down one or both legs.  The intensity of the pain varies depending on numerous factors.  Most importantly, sciatica is a symptom but it is NOT a diagnosis.

#1 Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Did your sciatic pain start after a fall on your buttock?  Were you rear-ended in a car accident?   For women, low back pain continuing after pregnancy is another clue that your sacroiliac joint may be the culprit.  These can all create symptoms that mimic a herniated disc known as a Sacroiliac joint (SI) Dysfunction.

SI dysfunction is joint pain typically felt in the buttocks and sometimes in the low back.  Often sitting is uncomfortable.  It causes the pelvis asymmetrical movement and creates imbalances in your pelvic muscles.  Over time, this results in pain, discomfort and sometimes sciatic-type leg pain.

How to Get Better:

  • Recovery can take 2-4 weeks or several months, depending on your health factors.
  • A combination of Chiropractic manipulation, Physical Therapy, and rehabilitation exercises are usually effective.
  • Ask your healthcare practitioner about a Sacroiliac belt
  • Avoid physical activities like running and sports that require a sudden change in direction (football / ultimate frisbee).
  • Try lower impact sports like spinning or swimming


#2 Piriformis Syndrome: Pain in the Butt

Very closely related to SI Joint Dysfunction is another condition called Piriformis Syndrome.  There is thickening of the piriformis muscle, causing pressure on the sciatic nerve as it passes through the gluteal region.   This can produce sciatic-type pain and can be easily mistaken for a disc herniation.   Pain is primarily in the gluteal or buttock region but can spread to the back of your thighs.

6 out of 7 cases are found in females, possibly related to anatomical differences between genders.   Women tend to have wider hips than men.  Other risks for Piriformis syndrome include having flat feet, a longer second toe or if one of your legs is longer than the other.

Do a quick review of how you sit.  Piriformis Syndrome has been linked with certain sitting habits.  It seems to occur more often if you read in bed with your knees bent but place most of your weight on your buttock.  Another trigger is if you have like to sit with your foot under your buttock.

How to Get Better:

  • Change your sitting habits
  • Buying a seat cushion might be helpful
  • Search for Piriformis stretches you can try at home

#3 Spinal Stenosis: Shopping Cart Syndrome

Do you have Christmas shopping to do but can’t seem to walk or stand for too long at the mall?  Do you feel the need to sit down while standing in a line-up because of lower back & leg pain?  If you said yes to either of these 2 questions, you may be having symptoms of Spinal Stenosis.

Spinal stenosis typically affects people over the age of 60 but can occur earlier in some people.  It can seem like sciatica because there is often a pain in the lower back and/or legs.  Spinal Stenosis may even produce numbness, fatigue, cramping or weakness in your legs.  Lastly, the symptoms often get better when you bend forward or sit down.

How to Get Better: 

  • When shopping, leaning forward on a shopping cart as you walk
  • Overall, avoid activities that require prolonged standing, walking or arching your back.
  • If you do yoga, avoid the Cobra pose.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Regularly find a place to lie down and bring your knees to your chest
  • Consider the 6-Week Spinal Stenosis offered by Chiropractor, Dr. Kevin Ho

#4 Gluteal Muscle Pain

Are you an avid outdoor runner?   Are you an Uber or Lyft driver and sit in a car all day?  Did you recently have a leg injury and was limping for several weeks?  These are common triggers for gluteal muscle pain, another condition that can cause sciatica-type leg pain.

The gluteus minimus, the smallest of the 3 gluteal muscles is the worst.  It can produce sharp pain along the side and back of your leg.

How to Get Better:

  • In mild cases, try some home-stretching, foam rolling or use of a lacrosse ball to release tight glut muscles.
  • If you have moderate to severe leg pain, seeing a professional therapist may be needed.
  • A good massage therapist familiar with this gluteal trigger points should be able to fix this problem.
  • Acupuncture techniques may be needed

Well there you have it, 4 tricksters that might make diagnosing sciatica pain a bit confusing.  You should know that there are many causes of sciatica and they aren’t all listed here.  As always, be sure to speak with your health practitioner about your symptoms.

Do you want more information about solutions for sciatica pain, contact us and learn how she could help you with menopause related symptoms.   You can call us at 647-931-8108 or use our contact us form.

Brightpath Health and Wellness is here to help!   We are located conveniently at Yonge & Sheppard, in the heart of North York.  

Written by: Dr. Kevin Ho, DC