Can Sciatica Affect Your Foot
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When we suffer from foot pain, we often dont think that the root of the problem could lie in our back. However, when it comes to sciatica, this is often the case. To help find the source of your foot pain, it may help to dig deeper into your sciatic nerve and see if it has played a role.
If a nerve root in your lower back is damaged or compressed, this causes pain to radiate down the sciatic nerve to your foot. If your foot pain follows trauma to your lower back, this can help you pinpoint the exact site of nerve damage.
Causes Of Sciatic Pain
Compressed nerves often cause sciatic pain. Sciatica pain in the foot is usually accompanied by pain in your lower back. This pain seems to radiate from your lower back through your leg, ending in your foot. A slipped disc can press on the sciatic nerve root, causing pain and discomfort.
The following lower back conditions can contribute to sciatic pain:
It would be best if you found out the specific cause of your foot pain. It can be done through an examination by a trained physician for a complete diagnosis.
What Does Sciatica Pain Feel Like
People describe sciatica pain in different ways, depending on its cause. Some people describe the pain as sharp, shooting, or jolts of pain. Others describe this pain as burning, “electric or stabbing.
The pain may be constant or may come and go. Also, the pain is usually more severe in your leg compared to your lower back. The pain may feel worse if you sit or stand for long periods of time, when you stand up and when your twist your upper body. A forced and sudden body movement, like a cough or sneeze, can also make the pain worse.
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Could Your Foot Pain Be Caused By A Problem With Your Back
While it doesnt seem like there should be such a connection, considering how sensitive and large the back is, foot pain can in fact be related to your back. It is not uncommon to have pain in the legs or feet without any significant lower back pain, yet the problem is still originating in the lumbar region of the lower back. Blame the funny way our nerves work sometimes, sending signals all over the place.
How Can I Help Manage Sciatica
- Ultrasound therapy: This is a machine that uses sound waves to decrease pain. Topical medicines may be added to help decrease pain and inflammation.
- Physical therapy: A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
- Assistive devices: You may need to wear back support, such as a back brace. You may need crutches, a cane, or a walker to decrease stress on your lower back and leg muscles. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about assistive devices and how to use them correctly.
Sitting And Sleeping With Sciatica
People with sciatica often find sitting, sleeping or driving postures painful.
Maintaining these postures is not harmful but during times of intense pain it can be helpful to explore different postures or move more regularly.
As pain becomes more tolerable, it can be helpful to relax, move and explore a variety of postures as a part of recovery or rehabilitation programme.
How Do You Find The Cause Of Sciatica
A thorough history and examination must be completed to determine the cause of your sciatica.
Often specific information at this stage starts to point to the location of the cause. Certain symptoms are unique depending on the underlying cause of the sciatica. For example, bending the body backward or walking more than a short distance will often aggravate sciatic symptoms when spinal stenosis is the cause. Bending the body forward may trigger symptoms if the cause is a lumbar herniated disc.
The most common tests include:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- Blood tests
These tests help find the cause and also rule out any other pathologies as the cause of your symptoms so the most appropriate treatment can be given.
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Schedule A Visit With Your Doctor
It is important to schedule an appointment with your doctor to accurately diagnose the cause of your foot pain. Treatments for foot pain can differ widely and must be directed at resolving the underlying cause not just masking the symptoms. For example, a lumbar herniated disc may require heat therapy and exercise, while a corn on your toe can often be treated with special shoes and warm water.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
People with tarsal tunnel syndrome may experience pain, numbness, or tingling. This pain can be felt anywhere along the tibial nerve, but its also common to feel pain in the sole of the foot or inside the ankle. This can feel like:
- sharp, shooting pains
- an electric shock
- a burning sensation
Symptoms vary greatly depending on each individual. Some people experience symptoms that progress gradually, and some experience symptoms that begin very suddenly.
Pain and other symptoms are often aggravated by physical activity. But if the condition is long-standing, some people even experience pain or tingling at night or when resting.
Tarsal tunnel syndrome results from compression of the tibial nerve, and its often caused by other conditions.
Causes can include:
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Common Causes Of Sciatic Nerve Compression
As mentioned previously, pre-existing conditions within the spine often cause sciatica. Herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatica-associated pain. Other sciatica causes include:
- Lumbar degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal arthritis
- Bone spurs
It should be noted that while sciatica-associated symptoms are often caused by lumbar spine anomalies, there are other conditions that are very similar:
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: Patients with this dysfunction experience very similar symptoms to those associated with sciatica. This condition gives patients a deep, aching pain felt inside the leg. This differs slightly from the pain associated with sciatica, as it is not as well-defined or linear.
- Piriformis Syndrome: This condition occurs when a muscle located within the buttocks spasms, leading to pain and discomfort. Because of its close proximity, this may also irritate the sciatic nerve, causing a type of pain very similar to that of sciatica. However, usually, the pain is much more intense above the knee than it is with sciatica. Additionally, the point of origin for the pain often originates in the buttocks as opposed to the lower back. In fact, piriformis syndrome does not usually affect the lower back at all.
How Painful Is Sciatica
Sciatica symptoms range from mild to severe and can vary from day to day. Symptoms can be intense, unpredictable and very distressing. This can be very scary, but sciatica is rarely dangerous.
Symptoms can be all consuming. It can be tough to focus on other things Whilst being supported to manage pain, try to maintain things that bring value to your life. This might include things like going for a walk on the beach, playing with grandchildren, going for a meal with a friend or staying in work. This may be difficult at times but it can help with coping and emotional wellbeing.
Discuss any worries you have with your health professional.
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Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- What are your main symptoms?
- How long have you had your symptoms?
- What were you doing when your symptoms started?
- Have you had this problem in the past? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated?
- What activities related to sports, work, or your lifestyle, make your symptoms better or worse?
- Did foot problems begin after you started wearing new footwear?
- What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
- What non-prescription medicines have you taken? Did they help?
- Have you started any new medicines or have you had a change in the dosage of a medicine?
- Do you have any health risks?
Sciatic Nerve And Foot Pain How Are They Related
Sciatica refers to the pain that affects the sciatic nerve. It is the longest and largest nerve in the human body that extends from the lumbar region of the lower area of the back down through each leg.
Most people often assume that the pain is the result of the sciatic nerve getting compressed somewhere along its path. Plausible as it may be, this isnt always the case.
More often than not, its the individual nerve roots that get compressed, causing the infamous excruciating pain that people with this condition experience. Compression could be due to a spinal bone spur, a herniated disk, or spinal stenosis .
It manifests as a sharp pain that shoots through the leg along the path of the nerve. In most cases, it typically affects the L4 or L5 of the sciatic root.
Doctors can pinpoint the exact nerve roots by identifying where the pain terminates. It could go down to the side of the foot or down to the big toe. Other common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Sciatica pain in shin and foot
- Sciatica pain pins and needles in the foot or a tingling sensation in the region
- Shooting pain that originates from the lower back, through the buttock and down the back of either leg
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Lower Back Pain And Swollen Ankles
Your lower back is called the lumbar region of the spinal column. It has a lot of hefty training to do: The back spine brings the weight of your entire top body, plus biomechanical stress and anxieties that accompany motion. Lower Back Pain And Swollen Ankles
The lumbar spinal column has five vertebrae foundations. Each vertebra has a large disc padded gel wrapped in a challenging membrane on its front side that works as a shock absorber. Each vertebra additionally has two cartilage-lined element joints on its backside. Interacting, discs and also aspect joints enable the spine to safely flex as well as turn.
Your lower back also includes tendons, tendons, as well as muscle mass. Tendons are solid bands that hold the vertebrae and also discs with each other. Tendons affix muscular tissues to the vertebrae. These structures aid restrict extreme movement that could hurt the spinal cord.
How Serious Is Foot Pain Caused By Sciatica
Foot pain is an affliction that seems to affect almost everybody at some point in their lives. While most of the time it is caused by some outside disturbance or a problem within the foot itself, sometimes foot pain is caused by a completely different part of the body. One of the main problem areas that can cause foot pain is the back. Lets take a closer look at the link between back problems, sciatica, and foot pain!
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What Happens If Sciatica Is Not Treated
There are several issues that can arise from untreated sciatica. You may experience: Nerve damage If you dont seek medical treatment for your condition, then you run a very high risk of suffering nerve damage that may be permanent. If that happens, then the pain in the back and legs may only get worse
What Are The Risks Of Sciatica
An epidural steroid injection can lead to pain disorders or paralysis if it is placed incorrectly. It may also cause headaches, leg pain, and blockage of blood flow to the spinal cord. Surgery may cause you to bleed or get an infection. If not treated, your muscles and nerves may become damaged permanently. You may have decreased strength. You may not be able to move your leg or control when you urinate or have bowel movements.
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What Are Sciatica Symptoms
Sciatica symptoms are generally characterized by painful and uncomfortable sensations caused by the pinching of the sciatic nerve from compression in the lumbar spine region.
The sciatic nerve is the single longest nerve found in the human body it runs from both sides of the lower backbone through the back of the butt, thighs, and then all the way down to the feet. That is why when the sciatica nerve is aggravated, pains can occur anywhere it is located, including the feet.
It should be noted that if you are suffering from foot pain occurring from a sciatica issue, the pain is rarely only localized in just the feet. Usually, sciatica pain is felt through the affected nerves pathway in different parts of the hips, buttocks or legs.
What Are The Types Of Sciatica
There are two types of sciatica:
The discs between the vertebra can bulge, herniate or sequestrate causing direct pressure on the nerves leaving the spine. Pressure directly onto the spinal cord from within the spine can also compromise the function of the sciatic nerve. Tight muscles through the buttocks and top of the legs can also irritate and put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
In most of these cases the leg pain is worse than the back pain and described as a sharp, burning, shooting pain. It is often associated with a feeling of numbness, pins and needles, hot and cold sensation and muscle weakness.
With neurogenic sciatica there are usually abnormal neurological exam findings such as a loss the normal reflexes, muscle weakness and sensory changes.
In some cases the pain is worse in the back than it is in the leg and doesnt usually have a shooting quality to it. Abnormal neurological findings, such as reflex changes, objective weakness and sensory changes, are unlikely to be present.
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How To Treat Foot And Ankle Pain Caused By Sciatica
There are many treatments for sciatica, but they fall into two categories: non-operative treatment and surgical treatment.
Non-operative treatments for sciatica include Physical Therapy , medications like non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids, injections, and rest. These treatments are often successful, but you may need to continue with them over some time before your symptoms fully resolve.
As experienced Physical Therapists with a long history of helping patients resolve sciatica and foot and ankle pain without dangerous surgery, we consider surgical treatments an absolute last resort. With sciatica, there are two main options for surgical intervention:
- Microdiscectomy: This surgery specifically relates to disc herniation. During the surgery, the damaged disc is either partially or entirely removed to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. Your surgeon may also need to remove a small piece of bone.
- Laminectomy: During this surgery, your surgeon removes the lamina the arched part of your spinal bones to make space for your sciatic nerves, or other associated nerves, to pass through without compression or restriction.
We only recommend surgery in very rare cases when patients do not respond to non-operative treatment. These patients continue to have significant leg numbness, pain, weakness, and sensory dysfunction even after physical therapy, rest, and medication.
Who Gets Sciatica And How Long Does It Last
Sciatica affects people of all ages but is most commonly seen in forty and fifty-year-olds.
Pain is usually worse in the first few weeks and reduces the most over the first few months. At twelve weeks, about half of people with sciatica will have significantly improved. At a year, three quarters of people with sciatica will have recovered. For a group of people though, pain may not improve as expected or recovery may take a long-time. This is because people adapt and cope in different ways.
Discuss how you can assist recovery with your health professional.
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Is It Sciatica Or Peripheral Neuropathy What You Need To Know
The symptoms of sciatica or peripheral neuropathy are easy to confuse. Both conditions cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs and feet. The impact on your strength and balance may also make falls more likely.
Sciatica and peripheral neuropathy are two of the more challenging conditions treated at Algonquin Chiropractic. You may limit the activities you enjoy when you have one of these problems. You may also struggle to get a good nights sleep or turn to potentially addictive medicine.
The conditions are very different, however. Read on to learn more and find out how chiropractic care can help.
Is Surgery Necessary For Sciatica
If, despite doing everything one is instructed to do, the pain continues and the CT or MRI shows a problem with the disc or bone, back surgery may be recommended. Back surgery is generally performed for patients who have tried all other methods of treatment first. There are exceptions to this, such as people with ongoing nerve damage or cauda equina syndrome.
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