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What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain When Walking?

author image Dawn Runge
Dr. Dawn Runge holds a Doctor of Chiropractic and master's degree in nutrition. She has written more than 60 articles for a weekly health and fitness column owned by AOL News. She has also competed in fitness competitions, and enjoys dancing and reading. She resides in Orlando, Fla.
What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain When Walking?
Pain from sciatica typically radiates down the back of the leg. Photo Credit: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Up to 84 percent of people worldwide experience low back pain during their lifetime, according to the authors of a February 2012 review article published in the journal "Lancet." Sciatica is a common form of low back pain that often radiates into the legs. The mechanics of walking can put pressure on the nerves responsible for sciatica, aggravating symptoms.

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Sciatic Nerve and Pain

Sciatica is the term for nerve pain that comes from the sciatic nerve, the longest and widest nerve of the body. There are two sciatic nerves that come from each side of the spine where the low back meets the buttocks. The sciatic nerve travels down the back of each leg to the foot. Many conditions can cause sciatica, including a herniated disc, arthritis and muscle problems. With some of these conditions, walking increases pressure on the sciatic nerve and triggers or worsens the pain.

Sciatica and Walking

Sciatica can be irritated by walking in several ways. The low back has a natural curve that reduces stress on the spine when walking. But arthritis or a herniated disc can put pressure on the sciatic nerve as you walk. Compression on the nerve causes pain.

The lower body muscles required for walking may also contribute to sciatic nerve compression and pain. The sciatic nerve runs through the buttocks and upper legs with little room. Injury or irritation of one or more of the muscles along the path of the sciatic nerve can lead to compression and pain, which may be aggravated by walking.

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