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Does Sciatica Cause Lower Back Pain

When Sciatica Is Serious

This Weird Trick Relieves Sciatic Nerve Pain

Certain symptoms of sciatica may indicate a serious medical condition, such as cauda equina syndrome, infection, or spinal tumors. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Progressive neurological symptoms, such as leg weakness
  • Symptoms in both legs
  • Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction
  • Sexual dysfunction

It is advised to seek medical attention immediately if such symptoms develop. Sciatica that occurs after an accident or trauma, or if it develops in tandem with other symptoms like fever or loss of appetite, is also cause for prompt medical evaluation.

Typical Symptoms Of Sciatica

  • Sciatica can potentially generate pain at any point of the nerve path.
  • Painful sensations can develop all along a path starting at the lower back into the buttocks, through the leg and into to the soles of the feet.
  • Pain associated with the compression of the sciatic nerve can be described as electrical with a pronounced tendency to cause an intense burning sensation that increases over time.
  • Sciatica is known to cause a marked weakness or numbness in the affected area.
  • Sciatica can make it difficult to stand up or move around.

The most common symptom of sciatic nerve compression is a pain that travels from your lower back to the legs, predominantly the backside. This pain can vary in intensity from a dull ache to a severe, sharp pain. However, this will not happen in both sides all the time. You can also feel some pain that comes from the buttock and the lower back and which continues to expand right along the sciatic nerve, a very challenging and problematic thing to deal with.

Another common symptom is pain when walking or lying down. This pain typically gets worse when sitting or standing. Searing, sharp pains can be problematic. Shooting or severe pain in one leg can be challenging, and its also a Sciatica symptom too.

While not all people feel this, it seems that hip pain can also be one of the signs. Again, this is very hard to identify, so it can be a bit problematic in this regard. A burning or tingling sensation down the leg can also show that you have Sciatica.

Pain That Changes When You Move Position

Its not uncommon for pain to lessen or worsen when you move your position, but the way it changes can vary based on whats causing the pain. For many people with sciatica, for instance, pain can lessen when leaning forward from a sitting position, or when lying completely flat on your back. However, if you lie on your side, it often gets worse .

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When Should You Call The Doctor About Foot Drop

If you are having trouble moving your feet, or you notice that you are adjusting the way you walk in order to avoid dragging your toes, contact your doctor. He or she will examine you to determine whether you have foot drop.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/09/2018.


Symptoms Associated With Sciatica That Lead To Lower Back And Hip Pain

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Because the sciatic nerve starts in the lumbar region of the back and branches down on each side of the hips, then all the way through the back of the legs and calves, it is quite likely that it will cause symptoms along the areas that it runs through.

Whether it manifests itself in the lower back, hips, or legs, the main symptom of sciatica is pain on one or both sides of the lower body, in the regions previously mentioned.

Apart from the pain, there are other symptoms that are characteristics of sciatica, such as:

  • A sensation of tingling in the lower back , hips or legs
  • Numbness in any of these areas
  • In more severe cases, it may cause difficulty in controlling ones bladder

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How Can I Take Care Of Back Pain And Dizziness At Home

If your back pain and dizziness are related to an injury, resting and icing your back can help ease pain and inflammation. Always keep the ice covered with a cloth. Leave it on for no more than 10 minutes at a time to prevent injuring your skin.

You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce your back pain.

When Should I Contact My Healthcare Provider

Get immediate medical attention if you experience:

  • Severe leg pain lasting more than a few hours that is unbearable.
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in the same leg.
  • Bowel or bladder control loss. This could be due to a condition called cauda equina syndrome, which affects bundles of nerves at the end of the spinal cord.
  • Sudden and severe pain from a traffic accident or some other trauma.

Even if your visit doesnt turn out to be an emergency situation, its best to get it checked out.

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Spinal Stenosis And Sciatica

Degeneration and osteoarthritis can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness from pressure on the spinal nerves and/or spinal cord.

This pressure may be a result of an osteophyte formation, as well as hypertrophy of the spinal ligaments and facet joints. The spinal canal may be narrowed , and the area just underneath the facet joints may also be reduced in size .

Osteophytes are abnormal bony spurs which form as part of the degenerative process or following a longstanding disc prolapse. This extra bone formation can cause spinal stenosis as well as intervertebral foraminal stenosis, both of which result in compression of the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves.

As the spinal nerves leave the canal, they need to travel through the intervertebral foramen to get to the legs. This tunnel may be narrowed by a number of degenerative and other processes, including:

  • Intervertebral disc degeneration, collapse and bulging
  • Osteophyte formation
  • When this occurs, it is known as foraminal stenosis.
  • Sciatic pain as a result of spinal stenosis is frequently worse on standing and walking, and improves on sitting. This pain pattern is known as neurogenic claudication.

    Lumbar Disc Prolapse And Sciatica

    WORST Back Stretch EVER. Stop This Today! Can Cause Back Pain & Sciatica.

    A disc prolapse happens when an intervertebral disc is either ruptured or bulges. The intervertebral discs are soft structures which act as shock absorbers between each of the vertebrae in the spine.

    A single disc sits between each vertebra. Each intervertebral disc has a strong outer ring of fibres , and a soft, jelly-like centre .

    The central soft and juicy nucleus is a spherical structure that allows tilting, rotating, and gliding movements in the spine.

    The nucleus also serves as the main shock absorber. It is a transparent, gelatinous substance that contains 88 percent water in young adults. With age and/or degeneration, the water content drops significantly. Collagen fibers, connective tissue cells, and a small amount of cartilage make up the remainder of the nucleus. The nucleus does not contain any blood vessels or nerves.

    The annulus is the toughest part of the disc, and connects each vertebral bone. The annulus is a ring-like mass of fibres which encloses the central nucleus and holds it under pressure to prevent rupture.

    In degenerative disc disease these discs between your vertebrae shrink and become worn out or damaged, which may lead to herniation.

    An annular tear is where the annulus fibrosis is torn, often the first event in the process of disc prolapse. An annular tear can cause back pain with or without leg pain.

    Ruptured or prolapsed intervertebral discs may cause leg pain or sciatica in two ways:

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    Diabetes And High Blood Sugar

    Diabetic peripheral neuropathy occurs due to nerve damage from elevated blood sugar. Nerves that have been exposed to chronically elevated blood sugar can become damaged due to disruption of blood flow in the small blood vessels that supply the nerve, or by altering the cellular structure of the nerve itself.

    What Are The Risk Factors

    You might think that older adults are the most at-risk demographic for developing sciatic pain symptoms. Its true that underlying conditions such as spinal stenosis tend to affect those 50 years old and up. But thats not the primary age group that ends up dealing with sciatica. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains, You are most likely to get sciatica between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may happen as a result of the general wear and tear of aging, plus any sudden pressure on the disks that cushion the bones of your lower spine.

    Indeed, the nature of sciatica pain which basically always involves some pressure on or damage to the sciatic nerve means a wide range of individuals may have to face it. Some may find it surprising to learn that pregnant women often develop sciatic nerve pain when the uterus presses against the sciatic nerve. So while increasing age does play a role, its far from the only one.

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    Youre Running A Fever

    The flu can definitely make you run a fever and achiness, including in your back. However, if the fever is unresponsive to standard OTC medications, you could have a serious infection that needs treatment immediately. If you go to a doctor and they find an infection, they may prescribe antibiotics and a few days rest.

    Youre Having Problems With Your Bowels Or Urination

    Chronic Lower Back Pain

    If your back pain is paired with a loss of control over your bowels or urination, then its time to seek help immediately at a . These symptoms point to cauda equina syndrome, where the nerves in the lower spine have become paralyzed. While rare, this syndrome can be permanently damaging to the nerves if left untreated. If you experience these symptoms, especially accompanied by numbness in the legs, then you may need surgery to decompress the nerves and preserve their overall function.

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    Overcompensating For Abnormal Movements

    If you limp on a regular basis, you might find yourself overcompensating in your trunk area to maintain your balance. For instance, you might lean forward excessively or extend your spine a bit too far backward. This overcompensating could weaken the muscles in your lower back, buttocks, and abdomen that support your spine.

    Favorite Websites For Information About Sciatica Diagnosis And Tests

    AANEM’s goal is to improve the lives of people with neuromuscular diseases. This association can help you better understand some of the tests that physicians may do to diagnose sciatica and other nerve disorders. The website also has a tool to help you find a specialist.

    Established in 1980, the American Chronic Pain Association offers peer support and education in pain management skills not only to people with pain, but also their family, friends, and health care professionals. The associations Consumers Guide on Practice Guidelines for Low Back Pain explains the process of assessing and diagnosing low-back pain and describes a range of treatments.

    The nonprofit Radiological Society of North America hosts the worlds largest radiology conference and publishes two peer-reviewed journals, Radiology and RadioGraphics. The society’s patient information site, RadiologyInfo.org, explains what epidural injections are, why theyre used, and how they work. It also has an in-depth guide about MRIs of the spine.

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    Complications Related To Sciatica

    If you develop a loss of bladder or bowel control, contact your doctor right away. This can be a sign of a medical emergency that requires surgery to avoid permanent damage. Fortunately, this complication is rare. Most cases of sciatica go away within a few days or weeks and cause no lasting harm.

    Sciatica Causes And Risk Factors

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    Sciatica results from irritation of the root of your lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine.

    Additional common causes of sciatica include:

    • Lumbar spinal stenosis
    • Degenerative disk disease
    • Spondylolisthesis
    • Muscle spasm in the back or buttocks

    Other things that may make you more likely to have sciatica include:

    • Aging
    • Your job, especially if it involves driving for long periods of time, twisting your back, or carrying heavy things

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    Neurological Symptoms That May Accompany Sciatica Pain

    When the sciatic nerve is compressed, one or more neurological symptoms may accompany the pain.

    A few examples of accompanying symptoms include:

    • Weakness in the thigh muscles. When the thigh muscles are affected, there may be a weakness felt while attempting to bring the thighs together.
    • Weakness in the leg and foot muscles. When the leg muscles are affected, there may be weakness while attempting to bend the knee or while pointing the foot and/or toes upward and/or downward. These issues may result in a foot dropdifficulty in lifting the front part of the foot while walking. There may also be difficulty in rising from a sitting position or attempting to walk on tiptoes.

    Pain Relief And Treatment

    The primary goal of initial treatment is the relief of pain. Treatment and relief options for sciatica include:

    Moderate activityBed rest had traditionally been recommended in the treatment of sciatica but this is no longer the case. Research has indicated that bed rest does not tend to speed recovery and may in fact hinder it. It is now recommended that heavy physical activity should be avoided, but moderate activity should be maintained. It is thought that maintaining activity assists with overall recovery by helping to reduce inflammation.MedicationsPain relieving medications such as paracetamol and ipuprofen are commonly used to treat sciatic pain. In cases where muscle spasms are thought to be the cause, muscle relaxant medications may be recommended. When pain is severe the use of opioids may be necessary. Other medications that may be used are low-dose anti-depressants to reduce nerve stimulation, and cortisone injections near the spine to reduce pain and inflammation.

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    What Treatments Are Available

    Healing begins with self-care and nonsurgical strategies . The goal is to correct the problem, restore function, and prevent re-injury.

    Self care: Sciatica often resolves with rest, ice or heat, massage, pain relievers, and gentle stretches. Reduce muscle inflammation and pain using an ice pack for 20 minutes several times a day during the first 48 to 72 hours. Thereafter, a warm shower or heating pad on low setting may be added to relax the muscles. A short period of bed rest is okay, but more than a couple of days does more harm than good. If self-care treatments aren’t working within the first couple of days, see your doctor. .

    Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, can bring relief. A muscle relaxant may be prescribed for spasms. If pain is severe, an analgesic may be prescribed that can be taken with the NSAID or muscle relaxant.

    Steroids can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerves. They are taken orally tapered over a five-day period or by injection directly into the painful area . Steroids may provide immediate pain relief within 24 hours.

    How Is Sciatica Treated

    Lower back pain (a.o. sciatica, herniated disk)

    The goal of treatment is to decrease your pain and increase your mobility. Depending on the cause, many cases of sciatica go away over time with some simple self-care treatments.

    Self-care treatments include:

    • Appling ice and/or hot packs: First, use ice packs to reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice packs or bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to the affected area. Apply for 20 minutes, several times a day. Switch to a hot pack or a heating pad after the first several days. Apply for 20 minutes at a time. If youre still in pain, switch between hot and cold packs whichever best relieves your discomfort.
    • Taking over-the-counter medicines: Take medicines to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling. The many common over-the-counter medicines in this category, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen . Be watchful if you choose to take aspirin. Aspirin can cause ulcers and bleeding in some people. If youre unable to take NSAIDS, acetaminophen may be taken instead.
    • Performing gentle stretches: Learn proper stretches from an instructor with experience with low back pain. Work up to other general strengthening, core muscle strengthening and aerobic exercises.

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    Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

    This is a condition in which the spinal canal gets narrowed down in the lower region of the back. It is a common cause of compression of the sciatic nerve. Pain due to this cause is continuous in most cases.

    Degenerative Disc Disease

    DDD is a condition in which intervertebral discs are degenerated gradually due to age-related wear and tear changes, arthritis, dietary deficiency or any other cause. Intervertebral discs provide a cushioning effect. When the cushion effect is lost in the lower lumbar region, the sciatic nerve is compressed between two vertebrae, leading to severe pain.

    A Herniated Disk in the Lumbar Spine

    A spinal disk is comprised of two parts: the hard outer shell, and the soft inner contents that are protected by the shell. When the gel-like inner contents of the disk sticks out , that is referred to as a disk herniation. This can place pressure on the nerve roots that come out of the spinal cord, including the sciatic nerve.

    Bone spurs

    This is a bony overgrowth on the vertebrae that may place pressure on the sciatic nerve, lead to compression of the nerve, and ultimately to sciatica.


    It is a condition in which one vertebral bone slips forward over the other vertebral bone. This causes the compression or irritation of the root of sciatic nerve and pain is felt in the region of distribution of the nerve.

    Muscle Spasms

    Wearing High Heels

    The Cervical Spine And Sciatica

    The pain or the discomfort experienced with sciatica can be found in the lower back or down one of the legs, but, the real cause can also be traced up the spine a particular misalignment at the skulls base. The spine is built up by vertebrae. The spinal cord runs along the middle of every vertebrae and nerve roots diverge from the cord to go into each vertebra.

    When these roots are affected, a pinched nerve emerges. Radiculopathy can affect any part of the spine to cause pain and this includes the neck or the cervical spine. The cervical spine, is composed of the neck and seven small vertebrae that originate from the base of the skull and end at the upper chest area. Pinching of the neck or compression can result into a tingling sensation or an agony on the shoulders, the arms, and hands. It can also cause the back to pinch, causing pain in ones legs and feet.

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    The topmost spine vertebra, or the atlas is the most freely movable and provides humans with the ability to move the head differently. Due to this, it can also shift its usual alignment resulting into spasms and abnormal muscle tension that may create imbalances along the lower back, hips, and the pelvis. The lower back feels very stressed and strained and may bring about problems that stem along the sciatic nerve. The actual origin of the problem is on the other spines end and relief can only be offered when the atlas is corrected.

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