Genetics and Sciatica – How Does Sciatica Develop from Genetics?

sciatica and genetics

Sciatica is characterized by pain that travels along the sciatic nerve. The pain begins from the lower back moving down to either or both legs and the foot area. Sciatica results from various risk factors, and genetics have been proven to be one of them. Depending on the cause, sciatica can occur suddenly or gradually.


Sciatica symptoms are commonly felt along the sciatic nerve path and include;

  • Pain that may be moderate or severe, originating from the lower back or buttocks and radiates down to the thigh front or back, and leg or at times the foot. Some describe the pain as a constant burning sensation, sharp, shooting, and others describe it as jolts of pain.
  • Pain that may worsen with movement or lack of movement.
  • Numbness in the leg.
  • A tingling sensation in the leg, foot, and toes.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • Leg and foot muscle weakness.

How does Sciatica Develop from Genetics?

Sciatica caused by a degenerative and or a herniated disc in the lower spine may have a genetic cause. Genetic defects can cause the weakening of disc contents and may make them more susceptible to stress.

Disc degeneration

Degenerative disc disease is a major cause of Sciatica. Disc degeneration occurs when one or more of the vertebrae discs wear down. Each of the spine vertebrae is separated by the cartilaginous intervertebral discs. These discs provide protection to the vertebrae by absorbing shock that may emanate from activities such as jumping, running, or walking. The discs also cushion the vertebrae and prevent the occurrence of friction between them.  

Due to age or injury, the discs may lose their fluid, become thinner, and become herniated or bulge. This condition is referred to as degenerative disc disease. When degenerative discs present in the lower back press against the sciatic nerve, sciatica may occur. Once they wear down, they cannot function efficiently and cause chronic back pain limiting one’s motion.

Suggested article: Understanding Sciatica Vs Herniated Disc

Genetic Disc Degeneration

Disc degeneration as a spinal condition has mostly been associated with the aging factor whereby the fluids are said to dry out. However, previous studies have also revealed data that suggests that the condition also involves a hereditary factor and could be inherited.

It has been concluded that those with immediate family members that may have had the condition are more likely to suffer from disc degeneration. The data cannot be exclusively relied on, but there is an indication that there is a genetic component associated with disc degeneration. In one’s early life, disc degeneration may be hereditary.

Lumbar Disc Disease (LDD)

Sciatica may originate from LDD, which usually results in disc herniation.

A genetics and lumbar disc disease study conducted in 2011 revealed that back pain and LDD could actually be inherited. The study also established that those suffering from LDD were more likely to have relatives with disc disease and that the risk of getting LDD was significantly high for close and distant relatives.

There are genes that are associated with an increased risk of disc wear and tear, while some genes are also linked to pain susceptibility and adaptability.

Searching for genetic factors and genes that may cause disc degeneration disorders has been highly influenced by the advancement of molecular genetic technology and human genome mapping.

These genes play a key role in the regulation of the intervertebral disc functioning, act on the disc structure, and work on regeneration. All these are vital mechanisms for the effective functioning and maintenance of the discs. In addition, the knowledge of the genes can help determine those that are more prone to disc degeneration.

Genes that are involved with disc degeneration include the ones for;

  • Collagen
  • Vitamin D receptor
  • Aggrecan
  • Interleukin 6
  • Matrix metalloproteinase 3


Sciatica originates from several factors such as age, injuries, lifestyle factors and diseases, posture disorders, and many more. Though research is still ongoing, genetic and hereditary factors cannot be fully ignored as a major cause for Sciatica. Several genes are associated with disc degeneration, which plays a key role in causing sciatica. Therefore, once you start experiencing pain along the sciatica nerve, especially where the other risk factors are not evident, it may be hereditary. However, one should still consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

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