Low Back Pain And Leg Pain… Is it Sciatica?
Low back pain can be localized and contained to only the low back area or, it can radiate pain down the leg like in sciatica. If you only have low back pain only, this is often less complicated and you’ll have a better chance for a complete recovery.
We’ve all heard of the word “sciatica” and it is sometimes loosely used to describe everything from low back pain arising from the joints in the back… the sacroiliac joint… from the muscles of the low back … as well as a pinched nerve from a ruptured disc.
Strictly speaking, the term “sciatica” should ONLY be used when the sciatic nerve is pinched. The sciatic nerve is made up of five smaller nerves (L4, 5, S1, 2, 3) that arise from the spine and join together to form one large nerve… which is about the size of our pinky… called the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica occurs when any one of the small nerves (L4-S3)… or when the sciatic nerve itself… gets compressed or irritated. This can be, and often is caused from a lumbar disc herniation (the “ruptured disc”), a mis-positioned vertebra (such as a forward slip of the vertebra called “spondylolisthesis”), pressure from an arthritic spur off the spine where the nerve exits (“spinal stenosis”), or, from a tumor near or around the nerve.
The sciatic nerve can also get pinched by the piriformis muscle where the nerve passes through the pelvis (in the “cheek” or, the buttocks), which has been commonly referred to as “wallet sciatica” as sitting on the wallet in the back pocket is often the cause.
Other causes include referred pain from the facet joints which is described by the patient as a “deep ache” inside the leg, or from a metabolic condition where the nerve is affected such as diabetes and other conditions.
In the above case, the term, “neuropathy” is the better label when diabetes, hypothyroid, lead poisoning, alcohol toxicity and/or others is the culprit.
Direct trauma like a bruise to the buttocks from falling or hitting the nerve during an injection into the buttocks can also trigger “sciatica.”
The symptoms of sciatica include low back pain, buttocks pain, back of the thigh, calf and/or foot pain and/or numbness-tingling. If the nerve is compressed hard enough, muscle weakness can occur making it hard to stand up on the tip toes creating a limp when walking.
The GOOD NEWS is that we have helped hundreds of patients with sciatica… and helped them avoid back surgery. So, check with us FIRST, before getting back surgery.
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