Potential Causes: Sciatica & Piriformis Syndrome

Disc & Other Major Spinal Issues

  • A herniated or bulging disc may be pressing against the sciatic nerve.
  • Other potential causes: Degenerative Disc Disease, Isthmic Spondylolisthesis and Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (Meagan McCreary)

Piriformis Syndrome*

  • Piriformis Syndrome is the name given when a tight piriformis (a hip rotator) spasms and causes buttock pain.
  • The piriformis may also push the sciatic nerve against tendons, creating sciatic pain. Doug Keller notes that this may be the cause in 70% of sciatic pain cases. He offers in-depth information.
  • Daily Bandha has an in-depth article on Piriformis Syndrome (with clear images) .

* Almost every source we consulted refers to Piriformis Syndrome as a potential cause of sciatica. Meagan McCreary, however, is referring to the other definition of sciatica here:

Often confused with sciatica, piriformis syndrome is not a true radiculopathy (stemming from the spinal column), and treatment almost always involves stretching the piriformis muscle. This is one area where yoga can really excel.

While the precise terminology in these uses is different, the resulting teaching recommendations are the same.

Other Potential Causes

  • Tight or weak lower back muscles. (Annmargret Sanchez)
  • SI joint issues may cause or be confused with sciatica.

Investigating the Cause

If flexing the hips, adducting the legs together and internally rotating the leg [FAIR] makes the pain worse, then the cause of your sciatica is likely compression of the nerve as it winds its way along the outside of the pelvis, underneath the big butt muscles. However, if the cause is discogenic, the FAIR provocation won’t make the situation worse. Here the cause is more likely impingement of the sciatic nerve by a bulging disc or some other abnormality located near the lumbar vertebra. – Bernie Clark