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James Ruport, a physical therapist and Troutdale's leading sciatica specialist, describes the top-three causes of sciatica.

JAMES RUPORTIn a previous column I told you all about a client who hurt her back while lifting a laundry basket and ended up suffering with sciatica — a pain shooting down her leg.

If you had a chance to read the article, you already know her biggest mistake in dealing with her pain was that she thought pain meds and resting (sitting) would do the trick, when in fact it made it worse. I also shared three tips that helped her and many other clients with similar problems.

While her pain was caused by bulging discs, that is not always the problem. Today I will go over the top-three causes of lower back pain and sciatica and what they all have in common.

Bulging discs: Repetitive tasks like bending with bad posture, one really heavy lift, or prolonged sitting can contribute to bulging disks in the spine. When discs bulge, they can put pressure on the nerve and cause sciatica (shooting pain down the leg).

Degenerative changes (stenosis): As we age, our joints and discs experience degenerative changes. This includes diagnoses like degenerative disk disease or degenerative joint disease, which can be viewed on x-ray or MRI. "Stenosis" refers to the narrowing of parts of the spine that can also put pressure on the nerves as they exit the spine.

SI joint dysfunction: Although not as common as the first two, the sacroiliac (SI) joint can cause nerve irritation, causing pain down your buttock and leg. This isn't picked up on an x-ray, but a clinical exam will help us diagnose the problem.

What do they have in common?

All three conditions are caused by compression. Think gravity pushing down through the spine, and now add extra loads from lifting.

If it's caused by gravity, how can I ever solve this problem?

It's a question that I've been asked a few times. The answer is improving your core. If your muscles work correctly they can actually create forces that counteract gravity.

This is what sets my practice apart.

I help people fix the root cause of the problem (compression). By getting them to understand how to turn on muscles they didn't even know they had.

In the following weeks I will discuss tips that will help you ease your back pain and sciatica.

If you want to learn about our new digital physical therapy (PT) program to help you solve your sciatica from the comfort of your home, give me a call. You also could visit my free tips report.

James Ruport is a doctor of physical therapy and owner of Ruport Rehab and Performance. He is happy to hear your story and answer any questions you have about back pain and sciatica. Call or text 530-660-3158 or email [email protected]

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