Sciatica: A Sharp Shooting Pain That Radiates Down The Leg
Sciatica is a pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back down the back of the leg. The pain is often caused by compression of the nerve, which can occur when the spine is compressed or when the nerve is pinched by a muscle in the buttock. The pain is typically felt as a sharp, shooting pain that radiates down the leg. Sciatica can also cause tingling, numbness, or weakness in the leg.
When you have sciatic nerve pain, it can affect any part of your body, from the lower back to your feet. A pains severity and cause will determine what type of treatment is appropriate for that condition. sciatica nerve pain is caused by damage to the sciatic nerve and symptoms include lower back pain and muscle weakness. Over time, a herniated disc causes the body to age naturally, as evidenced by the aging of the discs. The narrowing of your spinal canal can cause severe spinal stenosis in the lower back. It is unclear why Piriformis syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that affects only a few thousand people. Proper exercise and a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent spondylolisthesis.
How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
Your doctor will likely begin by requesting a complete medical history and conducting a thorough physical examination to determine where youre feeling the pain. A physical exam can also determine if pain is affecting your range of motion.
Your doctor may also check your reflexes and your responses to certain sensations. This determines if your low back pain is affecting your nerves.
Unless you have concerning or debilitating symptoms or neurologic loss, your doctor will probably monitor your condition for a few weeks before sending you for testing. This is because most low back pain resolves using simple self-care treatments.
Certain symptoms require more testing, including:
- lack of bowel control
Likewise, if your low back pain continues after home treatment, your doctor may want to order additional tests.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms in addition to low back pain.
- problems with the ligaments and tendons in your back
If your doctor suspects a problem with the strength of the bones in your back, they may order a bone scan or bone density test. Electromyography or nerve conduction tests can help identify any problems with your nerves.
The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you need help finding a doctor.
Steroid Injections For Severe Back Pain
Cortisone injections are usually a temporary solution. While they can be effective at reducing inflammation and providing short-term relief, its recommended that patients try less invasive options first.
Common sprains and strains arent candidates for steroid injections. Rather, these are reserved for more extreme cases of chronic back pain like debilitating nerve pain and ruptured discs.
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How To Do The Pelvic Tilt
Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.
Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.
There are two types of back pain:
- Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
- Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.
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Prone Lying Prone Props And Press Ups
In the case of sudden onset of acute low back pain, you should try the emergency back pain exercises first. Lie on your stomach for a few minutes, then prop onto your elbows for a minute or two. Monitor your symptoms for centralization.
After a few minutes in the propped up position, try a few press ups. Try to keep your hips and back relaxed as you use your arms to press your upper body up. Try to press up as far as possible to restore the normal forward curve in your low back. Say to yourself, “Further, further, further” as you press up. Move your spine through the full, pain-free, range of motion. Perform 10 repetitions and monitor your symptoms.
If your pain does not fully centralize with the press up exercise, you may need to move on to the next exercise: the press ups with your hips off center.
Treating Chronic Back Pain
There are two main types of back pain treatments short-term and long-term. Short-term treatments are like a temporary patch, theyll help you manage your pain for a set period of time, but the pain will eventually return. The goal of long-term back pain treatments is to provide lasting relief. Both types of treatments have their purpose.
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Lower Back Pain And Cancer
Cancer involving the lumbar spine is not a common cause of back pain. However, in people who have a prior history of cancer, for example, in the breast or prostate, or who have weight loss or loss of appetite along with back pain cancer needs to be considered.
Night pain can be a clue to cancer in the spine. A benign tumor called osteoid osteoma, which most often affects young people, causes pain that tends to respond well to aspirin. Multiple myeloma is a malignancy that occurs when the plasma cells in the bone marrow begin spreading uncontrollably. It is most common in older people, and can cause pain in many parts of the spine. When tumor or infection are suspected, blood tests may be ordered, including a CBC , sedimentation rate , and protein electrophoresis .
Complementary And Alternative Techniques Include:
- Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves inserting thin needles into precise points throughout the body and stimulating them , which may cause the body to release naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
- Behavioral approaches include:
- Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to the skin and using an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and control their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature people regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques
- Cognitive therapy involves using relaxation and coping techniques to ease back pain
Spinal injections include:Trigger point injections can relax knotted muscles that may contribute to back pain. An injection or series of injections of a local anesthetic and often a corticosteroid drug into the trigger point can lessen or relieve pain.
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Maintain Correct Posture During Activities
To protect your lower back from injury, its important to maintain proper posture when performing physical activitiesespecially if you play sports or have a job that requires repetitive motions. Avoid slouching as much as possible and aim to keep your spine erect. When lifting, bend and straighten from the knees, not the waist. And be sure to move your hips when twisting from side to side.
Ask About Prescription Medications
If your back pain hasnt resolved itself within four to six weeks, make an appointment with your doctor, who will examine your back and ask you to sit, stand, bend, walk, and lift your legs to see how your pain is affecting your mobility. Youll likely be asked to rate your pain on a scale of one to 10, and they may do imaging tests, like an X-ray or MRI. Then, he or she may recommend one of the following prescribed therapies:
- Muscle relaxants: Medications like cyclobenzaprine or baclofen can help relieve painful back spasms. If you go this route, just know that side effects can include fatigue and dizziness.
- Topical pain medications: These creams and ointments, like Voltaren gel, are meant to be rubbed directly on to the area thats hurting you.
- Cortisone shots: If other treatment measures fail, your doctor may recommend an injection of cortisone, a potent anti-inflammatory. There are risks, including thinning of nearby bone, and relief typically lasts just a few months, tops.
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When Are Diagnostic Tests For Lower Back Pain Necessary
Many patients do not need X-rays in the first few weeks of pain because their pain will end up resolving. Many more do not need CT scans or MRI imaging, which are overly sensitive and often reveal abnormalities not related to the patients pain. These forms of imaging can be extremely useful, however, if a person has chronic or severe pain, and/or neurological symptoms. Blood tests may be ordered if an infection or tumor is suspected.
Support Your Back While You Sleep
Bet you didnt realize you can also be doing damage to your back while you sleep, did you? Its true. The position that we sleep in can also strain the low back. Luckily, grabbing an extra pillow and trying this effective sleeping position can help. Lying on your side, place a pillow between your knees and calves in a vertical position so that the pillow extends down your legs. This position aids in maintaining proper spinal alignment and reduces low-back pain.
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Low Back Pain Shouldn’t Sideline You
Explore the common but under treated and misunderstood issues that accompany chronic back pain in our Back Pain Series. Part 1 explains the latest treatments that could relieve that aching back.
Many Penn State alumni fondly remember David K., now 34, as the student who crawled to class. Mired by back pain throughout his four years of college, David saw tons of doctors from top neurosurgeons to psychologists for the pain. Instead of listening to the popular college music of his day like REM, he listened to the soothing sounds of pain expert John E. Sarno, MD, on cassette tapes called Mind Over Back Pain when he drove his Mustang around the college campus.
“If you don’t have chronic back pain, you can’t possibly imagine what it feels like,” he says. “It’s unbearable — literally.” He says that there were many times he couldn’t walk and would have to crawl from his fraternity house all the way to class so he would not miss a midterm or final exam. “My fraternity brothers made a lot of fun of me,” he says. “Still do.”
About 80% of Americans — or four in five — experience low back pain at some point in their lives and understand David’s plight all too well. Many people with chronic low back pain are working age and for them, back pain is the most frequent case of lost productivity. Treatment for back pain costs roughly $100 billion a year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Rosemont, Ill.
What To Avoid If You Already Have Back Pain
Many exercises are neither all bad, nor all good. Form, of course, is important. But there are also exercises that can aggravate back pain, such as:
- Leg lifts, while not necessarily bad when done properly, are almost a catch 22 because you kind of need a strong core to do these without using too much assistance from the hip flexors and arching your back. If you do decide to move forward with these, make sure you keep your lower back pushed into the floor when you do them.
- Overarching your back during movements versus keeping it in a straight, tightly controlled line.
- Sit-ups done with momentum, wreaking havoc on your spine.
- Toe Touches with a rounded back instead of bending forward at the hips.
- Twisting and Turning motions with weight, placing the burden on your weaker lower back and not on the stronger muscles of the posterior chain.
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Benefits Of The Bird Dog
- A great low back endurance exercise that improves spinal stability. Lack of endurance in your core and back muscles can sometimes be a cause of low back pain.
- It helps people differentiate between hip extension and lower back hyperextension.
- Its a great anti-rotation core exercise, which essentially means youll be more adept at preventing rotation, which is useful when you brace your core.
Ways To Manage Low Back Pain At Home
Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments. Studies show that eight in 10 Americans have back pain at some point in their lives, usually in the lower back.
Sudden or severe back pain should be checked by a doctor or a physical therapist. That also goes for pain that wonât go away.
But sometimes you can treat nagging pain and discomfort on your own.
Wilson Ray, MD, chief of spine surgery for the Department of Neurological Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says home remedies â tend to be better when they’re combined than alone.â
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Overlooked Remedies For Lower Back Pain Relief
When lower back pain persists and continues to interfere with your quality of life, multiple treatment options may be needed for adequate relief. Below are some back pain treatments that are commonly overlooked or underused. Try one or more of these remedies to see which one, or combination, works best for you.
Incorporate An Element Of Instability Into Your Workout
The slow, controlled movements in exercises like Pilates teach your muscles to move the spine efficiently. The next step is to start exercising in a more variable environment, which develops even more coordination and control.
In another study, Dr. Moreno Catalá and her collaborators found that adding instability to exercises like balancing on an uneven surface or even working out in a noisy environment was effective at relieving lower back pain.
Dr. Moreno Catalá said it is less about the amount of muscular strength and more about the ability to finely control the activation and deactivation of all the muscles that stabilize the spine.
We think the size of the muscle is the most important quality, but its also the quality of activation that is important, she said.
Choosing sports that include an element of reactivity, whether its hiking on a rocky surface or reacting to a sudden tennis volley, can result in a similar level of muscular development and control. Body weight exercises, such as push-ups, pull-ups, burpees and squats, also help, since they require full-body coordination, rather than the isolated movement of lifting weights.
Rachel Fairbank is a freelance science writer based in Texas.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
Symptoms of lower back pain can come on suddenly or appear gradually. Sometimes, pain occurs after a specific event, such as bending to pick something up. Other times, you may not know what caused the pain.
Pain may be sharp or dull and achy, and it may radiate to your bottom or down the back of your legs . If you strain your back during an activity, you may hear a pop when it happened. Pain is often worse in certain positions and gets better when you lie down.
Other symptoms of lower back pain include:
- Stiffness: It may be tough to move or straighten your back. Getting up from a seated position may take a while, and you might feel like you need to walk or stretch to loosen up. You may notice decreased range of motion.
- Posture problems: Many people with back pain find it hard to stand up straight. You may stand crooked or bent, with your torso off to the side rather than aligned with your spine. Your lower back may look flat instead of curved.
- Muscle spasms: After a strain, muscles in the lower back can spasm or contract uncontrollably. Muscle spasms can cause extreme pain and make it difficult or impossible to stand, walk or move.