What causes sciatica? Sciatica diagnosis in London

Posted in , by Sophia Daly

Sciatica refers to a radiating pain along the sciatic nerves – the two longest nerves in the body  stretching from your lower back through your hips and down each leg. Sciatica, also known as radicular pain, is often experienced in these areas It is important to note that sciatica is a symptom of an underlying condition and is not a diagnosis in itself.

Risk factors for sciatica include:

  • Age – Up to 40 percent of people will experience sciatica during their life, though is most common in your 40s and 50s.
  • Gender – Men are three times more likely to experience it than women
  • Having poor core and back strength
  • Having poor hip mobility
  • Being overweight
  • Having a lifestyle that involves sitting for long periods of time
  • Having poor posture when sitting

It is easy to see why sciatica is relatively common in the corporate world. Due to the nature of office work, many of us sit for extended periods of time. It can make life difficult, particularly if you are trying to complete a full day of work.

There are various conditions that can cause sciatica and it is important to treat the underlying cause. Therefore, if you are experiencing sciatic pain it is wise to have it investigated and the root problem diagnosed.

This post will explain everything you need to know about what causes sciatica, the preventative measures you can take and how to receive a sciatica diagnosis in London.

What is sciatica?

Typically, sciatica is a sharp pain running from your lower back and hips and often through your leg into your foot. Sometimes it may be a tingling sensation like pins and needles or simply numbness. It is usually felt down one side of the body but may be felt down both and this pain may be persistent and chronic, or it may flare up intermittently.

It is also common for people with sciatica to experience weakness in the affected leg. This is because the sciatic nerve’s motor functions include moving the legs, bending the knees and pointing the feet and toes. So, when the nerve is compressed or irritated, this may lead to weakness.

sciatica diagnosis in London - what is sciatica - Echelon Health
What causes sciatica? Anything that inflames or puts pressure on the sciatic nerves which run from your lower back through your pelvis and down each leg

What causes sciatica?

The short answer is simply irritation or compression of a nerve in the lower spine.

The detailed answer is a problem in the lumbar and sacral regions of the lower spine. These regions each comprise five vertebrae, our entire spine comprising 33. Between each vertebra are spinal discs which act as shock absorbers allowing the spine to move easily. Sciatica is usually caused by an issue in one of the lumbo-sacral vertebrae (usually those between L4 and S1), or their discs, that puts pressure on or irritates a lumbar nerve route, or the sciatic nerve itself.

sciatica diagnosis in London - what is sciatica - Echelon Health
Above illustrates the human vertebrae column. Inflammation in the lumbar region or sacrum of the spine is often what causes sciatica. A sciatica diagnosis in London is important to identify the exact cause

90 percent of cases of sciatica are caused by a herniated lumbar disc, according to a study published in IJPBA Journal. However, there are many different causes of sciatica. Let’s take a closer look:

What causes sciatica specifically?

  • A herniated lumbar disc – each spinal disc consists of a jelly-like nucleus at the centre and outer layers, called the annulus fibrosis, for support. Disc degeneration or trauma can cause the jelly-like nucleus to leak into the spinal canal. This is a hernia. This either puts pressure on the nerves here or the nucleus may cause chemical inflammation around the sciatic nerve. Up to 90 percent of sciatica cases may be caused by a lumbar herniated disc.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – a constriction of the space for nerves in the spine due to degenerative changes such as bone spurs
  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease – degenerative changes in vertebrae or discs puts pressure on nerves.
  • Spondylolisthesis – spondylolysis occurs where one vertebrae and lumbar disc slipped forward over another. Usually this does not cause symptoms or pain, but it can compress nerves in the spine
  • Muscle spasm – inflammation of lumbar or pelvic muscles which simulate radicular pain or sciatica or may compress a nerve leading to sciatica
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction – improper movement of the joints at the base of the spine that connect the sacrum (base of spine) to the pelvis
  • In rare cases tumours or blood clots may affect the sciatic nerve
herniated disc - What causes sciatica? Sciatica diagnosis in London - Echelon Health
A herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine may place pressure on a sciatic nerve, or a nerve that subsequently branches into the sciatic nerves.

Best method of sciatica diagnosis

Because many different problems can irritate the nerves of the lower back and lead to sciatica, there are many different scans that help detect the underlying cause.. However, the optimum means of diagnosing the condition and to assess the discs is an MRI scan.

However, the best scan for assessing one’s predisposition to developing sciatica and looking at posture of the spine and pelvis is an EOS upright CT scan. This is because they are performed whilst the patient is standing or sitting upright in a weight-bearing posture rather than lying down and enable superb 3D views of the entire spine to be generated. This allows for superior analysis of conditions and deformities of lumbar region of the spine under the effects of gravity. To read more about how an EOS scan works, click here.

EOS uses Nobel Prize winning technology which is renowned for its low radiation dosage as well as efficiency for creating high-resolution 3D digital reconstruction of the musculoskeletal system. EOS technology is therefore rare and there are currently only a few  EOS scanners operating in the UK. Therefore, if you require an EOS scan in London, or a sciatica diagnosis in London, look no further than Echelon Health.

Where to get a sciatica diagnosis in London

Based on Harley Street, Echelon Health operate state-of-the-art imaging technologies including an EOS upright CT scanner. Together with taking a detailed medical history, ECG, and blood tests, these imaging technologies allow us to provide the most comprehensive Health Assessment in the world.  Our philosophy is the notion that prevention is better than cure, and we have many case studies where client’s lives have been saved through early detection of tumours or constricted arteries. To view these case studies click here.

Just as you don’t deserve to experience the nuisance of sciatic pain, you don’t deserve to worry about your health. In fact, by attending a Platinum Health Assessment you can rest assured that 92% of the causes of premature death can be  detected for (96% in women), according to our independently verified analysis of data from the Office of National Statistics. If anything worrisome is detected you will be immediately referred to a specialist consultant if you choose, or we can arrange referral to the NHS. Either way, a Health Assessment is a great investment and if you have sciatic pain, it will likely provide you with a sciatica diagnosis.

For more information, ring us on +44 (0)20 7580 7688 and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, click the button below:

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Tips to prevent sciatica

Sometimes sciatic pain is triggered by your habits and behaviours. This means there are some change you can make that may reduce flare-ups:

  • Lose weight – Both obesity and being overweight are risk factors for lumbar radicular pain and sciatica, this is supported by a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight will also put less pressure on your lower back and prevent damage occurring to it.
  • Change up your footwear – wearing heels changes your body weight distribution causing you to flex forward at the pelvis in order to stay upright. This leads to the hamstring muscles in your back to be stretched, potentially stretching and irritating the sciatic nerve too.
  • Try to avoid sitting for long periods of time – sitting may cause increased pressure on the sciatic nerve as it travels below the gluteus muscles down the leg. However, many of us must sit for work. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid sitting on hard chairs, which may directly irritate the nerve, or a soft couch, which causes the body to stabilise itself as this tension may aggravate sciatica. Try changing posture frequently and stretching your legs every hour.
  • Increase core strength and spine flexibility – having a strong core and flexible spine may help alleviate issues that could lead to sciatica and is important for your overall health. Seek the expertise of a physical therapist who can advise you on the right exercises.
  • Improve hip strength and mobility – with frequent sitting throughout the day our muscles and ligaments around the hips become tense, leading to a loss of motion. This can lead to strain on the spine. Again, seek consultation with a physical therapist to improve hip mobility and strength.


Spine Health – A guide to finding sciatica relief while at the office

Study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics – 5 ways you may be triggering your sciatica

Study published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Biological Archives

Harvard Health Blog – Sciatica: All of the nerve

Office for National Statistics