Sciatica is one of the most common causes of severe or chronic lower back pain in adults. Because sciatica refers to a specific set of symptoms, and not a specific condition, there are many different causes of sciatica. Some causes are quite common, such as:
Degenerative Disc Disease - Sciatica symptoms are possible simply from aging.
Herniated Discs - Lifting heavy objects may cause herniated disc related sciatica.
Obesity - Obesity can lead to pressure in your spine, also causing sciatica.
Yet in very rare cases, sciatica may be caused by something more serious. One of the few serious causes of sciatica is a tumor.
Tumors are abnormal cell growths that may occur anywhere in the body. These cell growths may occur in two separate ways:
Benign - No longer represents an immediate danger to your health.
Cancerous - Continues to grow, may be dangerous to your health.
Even though benign tumors are not considered "dangerous" to your health, both cancerous and benign tumors can cause sciatica symptoms. Further, there are two separate types of tumors that may cause sciatica:
Spinal Tumors - These tumors are quite rare, so it is unlikely that back pain is caused by spinal tumors. Yet they do exist, and may cause the same type of back pain as stress and aging.
Sciatic Nerve Tumors - Another type of tumor, known as neurofibroma, may affect the sciatic nerve. Neurofibroma is equally rare, and generally a result of another type of tumor known as neurofibromatosis.
Both of these cause sciatica symptoms because the abnormal growths (whether they are on your spine or on the sciatic nerve itself), can put pressure on the nerve, leading to all of the symptoms of sciatica:
Pain - Persistent in the lower back and may resonate down the legs.
Weakness - Most common in the legs, may make it difficult to move them.
Tingling/Numbness - Legs, lower back, and feet may experience some tingling.
Incontinence - Loss of control over bladder or bowels.
One of the reasons these tumors are so rare is because they are most often the cause of another tumor or cancer somewhere else in the body. As a result, the two best ways to prevent spinal cord tumors and sciatic nerve tumors is to both live a healthy lifestyle (to reduce your chances causing abnormal cell growths), and early detection and treatment of any tumors or cancers elsewhere in your body.