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Can Sciatica Cause Foot Pain

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Can sciatica lead to heel pain?

While all these conditions affect either the spinal cord, nerves, muscles, ligaments or joints and all can cause pain, none are directly related to sciatica. The main causes of these conditions are different. Sciatica only involves the sciatic nerve. That being said, the most similar condition would be carpal tunnel syndrome, which also involves a compression of a nerve.

A final word about sciatica. . . .

Most cases of sciatica do not require surgery. Time and self-care treatment are usually all thats needed. However, if simple self-care treatments do not relieve your pain, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can confirm the cause of your pain, suggest other treatment options and/or refer you to other spine health specialists if needed.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/25/2020.


Getting Pain We Can Help

If youre experiencing pain in your feet and are worried that its a nerve compression or other problem that originates in your back or somewhere else, we can help. Our experienced podiatry team will work to assess, diagnose and help treat the problem to alleviate your symptoms, and reduce the likelihood of it returning.

Where necessary, well refer you for imaging and involve other health professions to ensure you get the best long-term result.

Book your appointment online by here or calling us on

Can Sciatica Cause Urinary Problems

Sciatica is caused by a nerve compression or irritation resulting in pain radiating down the leg. If nerves that supply the bladder and bowels are compressed as well which occurs in 1% of disc herniations, then this can lead to urinary retention and when the bladder becomes overfilled, then some incontinence may occur.

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Sciatica + Foot And Ankle Pain: Whats The Connection

After many years of work in this area helping patients with foot and ankle pain and sciatica, we know that its common to experience foot and ankle pain simultaneously with sciatica. But what is sciatica?

Sciatica is a form of nerve pain that affects the area between the hips and knees. You can differentiate nerve pain from other types of pain because its usually a combination of tingling, numbness, or burning sensations.

It is usually caused by irritation or squashing of the sciatic nerve the two largest nerves in the human body, which run from your lower back down into each of your legs. You may even feel pain radiating behind your knee. The pain differs for everyone, but you can feel the pain in any area with nerve endings that travels through or near your sciatic nerves. For example, youll most likely have pain in one leg, but it could in rare circumstances occur in both legs at the same time. The nerve irritation causes intense discomfort and often pain. In some cases, it causes numbness or muscle weakness in an area of your leg on one side of your body. Symptoms may also worsen when you are sitting for long periods, climbing stairs, or getting out of bed too quickly.

How Is Sciatica Diagnosed

Can Orthotics Help with Sciatica?

First, your healthcare provider will review your medical history. Next, theyll ask about your symptoms.

During your physical exam, you will be asked to walk so your healthcare provider can see how your spine carries your weight. You may be asked to walk on your toes and heels to check the strength of your calf muscles. Your provider may also do a straight leg raise test. For this test, youll lie on your back with your legs straight. Your provider will slowly raise each leg and note the point at which your pain begins. This test helps pinpoint the affected nerves and determines if there is a problem with one of your disks. You will also be asked to do other stretches and motions to pinpoint pain and check muscle flexibility and strength.

Depending on what your healthcare provider discovers during your physical exam, imaging and other tests might be done. These may include:

  • Spinal X-rays to look for spinal fractures, disk problems, infections, tumors and bone spurs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography scans to see detailed images of bone and soft tissues of the back. An MRI can show pressure on a nerve, disk herniation and any arthritic condition that might be pressing on a nerve. MRIs are usually ordered to confirm the diagnosis of sciatica.
  • Nerve conduction velocity studies/electromyography to examine how well electrical impulses travel through the sciatic nerve and the response of muscles.
  • Myelogram to determine if a vertebrae or disk is causing the pain.

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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.

How To Identify The Source Of Your Foot Pain

With all the possible causes of nerve pain in the foot, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact underlying cause. Here are a few useful signs to help you identify the source of your foot pain:

  • Foot pain that follows recent trauma to the lower back, hip, knee, or ankle may help indicate the site of nerve damage
  • Foot pain due to nerve root compression or sciatica may also be associated with other symptoms, such as pain, numbness, and/or weakness in the buttock, thigh, and leg and typically affects one leg at a time
  • Foot pain that develops after wearing tight boots or shoes may indicate peroneal or sural nerve compression near the knee or ankle
  • Foot pain that develops after a hip injection or hip surgery may indicate sciatic neuropathy

Nerve pain in the foot may also occur due to nerve damage from systemic conditions, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

Twisting, bending, or a direct hit on your ankle and/or foot may injure the foot bones, ankle joint, blood vessels, muscles, and/or tendons, causing foot pain.

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Sciatic Nerve Glide Exercise

This seated exercise can alleviate sciatica symptoms. You can use this exercise to help your sciatic nerve relax and desensitize.

Follow these steps to complete this exercise:

  • Keep your other foot flat on the floor as you sit upright in a chair.
  • Bring your toes towards you while slowly bending your ankle.
  • Keep bending your ankle backward and forward, pointing your toes away from yourself and then towards your body.
  • When the first stretch is tolerated, you can also do the nerve glide while bending your head forward and bringing your chin towards your chest.
  • Repeat the exercise 15 to 20 times with one leg, and then with the other.
  • Make sure to do three rounds a day for each leg.

Its worth noting that while home remedies like stretches for sciatica pain can help reduce sciatic nerve pain, but they dont fix the underlying cause. A thorough chiropractic review pinpoints the cause of the discomfort, offers medication to alleviate sciatica symptoms, and creates a personalized treatment plan to ensure you stay pain-free for the long haul.

Sciatic nerve pain can be so excruciating and debilitating that you dont even want to get off the couch. Reclining pigeon pose is a common yoga pose that works to open the hips. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you, standing hamstring stretch. Standing hamstring stretch is a great way to stretch the hamstring muscles. Sciatica pain is triggered when vertebrae in the spine compress.

Can Chiropractic Help Resolve Tingling Feet

For Physicians: how a damaged Sciatic nerve in the foot can be causing Back, Hip, & Leg Pains

Yes! Chiropractic care is an excellent option for treating tingling feet and heres why: chiropractors are experts in understanding how the spine, vertebrae, and surrounding muscles and tissues interact. Additionally, chiropractic care relieves your symptoms while addressing the root cause of your feet tingling it starts with a personalized plan based on your unique symptoms, patterns, and medical history. Treatment often includes adjustments of the spine, neck, and extremities to help realign your body, decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to be more receptive to your natural healing process.

Stay on top of the early or consistent signs of foot tingling. Schedule your appointment online or call 397-6699.

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

  • Patrick saysJan 02, 2021 at 4:02 PM

    What herbal great did you use? Thank you

  • saysFeb 18, 2021 at 11:26 AM

    Good herbs for inflammation are turmeric, ginger, boswellia , Indian frankincense.

  • saysFeb 18, 2021 at 10:57 AM

    Yes Michael! Find a chiropractor with a good reputation. I am a fan of the Gonstead technique. Good luck searching!

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    When To Contact A Medical Professional

    • Unexplained fever with back pain
    • Back pain after a severe blow or fall
    • Redness or swelling on the back or spine
    • Pain traveling down your legs below the knee
    • Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, thigh, leg, or pelvis
    • Burning with urination or blood in your urine
    • Pain that is worse when you lie down, or awakens you at night
    • Severe pain and you cannot get comfortable
    • Loss of control of urine or stool

    Also call if:

    • You have been losing weight unintentionally
    • You use steroids or intravenous drugs
    • You have had back pain before, but this episode is different and feels worse
    • This episode of back pain has lasted longer than 4 weeks

    Nerve Compression In The Hip Knee Or Leg Causes Foot Pain

    Foot pain may also occur when the nerves in the hip, knee, or leg are compressed or damaged. Examples include:

    • Peroneal neuropathy, a condition when the peroneal nerve is compressed or wounded near the knee can cause foot pain.

    • Sciatic neuropathy or sciatic nerve damage in the pelvic region , with degree of weakness, can cause foot pain along the top of your foot.

    • Tarsal tunnel syndrome or tibial nerve dysfunction can cause severe, sharp pain in your area of the ankle and along your foot’s sole.

    • Sural nerve trapping on the leg or near the ankle can generate pain on the outside of the ankle or foot.

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    Sciatica Symptoms Or Something Else

    Sciatica isnt the only reason for pain in the legs, ofcourse. Other conditions can mimic sciatica:

    • Vascular disease: Narrowing of the bloodvessels in the legs can cause pain and cramps and might make it hard to walk.
    • Peripheral neuropathy: Small nerves inthe legs can become damaged, causing burning, pain, tingling or numbness in thefoot or lower leg. This type of nerve damage is often related to diabetes,alcohol use disorder or other medical conditions.
    • Peroneal neuropathy: An injury to the peroneal nerve below the knee can cause weakness and make it hard to lift the foot.

    How can you tell if youre dealing with sciatica orsomething else? Sciatica tends to affect the length of the leg, not just thefoot. And most often, that pain radiates downward from top to bottom, Dr.Thomas says.

    Another clue: Sciatica usually strikes just one side. If you have pain in both legs, it is less likely a disc herniation, but more likely due to degenerative changes like spinal stenosis, he says.

    Can Sciatic Nerve Be Removed

    Sciatica  Optimum Spine Chiropractic Center

    In cases of herniated discs, a surgical procedure called a laminectomy may be performed. In this procedure, a portion of the posterior arch is removed to relieve pressure on pinched nerve tissues. In cases of spinal stenosis, the portion of bone that is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve system can be removed.

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    Foot Pain Caused By A Spinal Problem

    Nerve root irritation or compression in the lumbar or sacral spine may cause sciatica pain to radiate down your leg and into the foot.1 Specifically, compression of the S1 nerve root, also called classic sciatica, can cause pain along the outer side of your foot.2

    Nerve roots may be compressed or irritated due to a number of causes. Common examples include3:

    The inability to lift the front part of your foot or frequent tripping while walking may be due to a condition called foot drop. This condition is typically caused due to compression of the L5 nerve root. Rarely, compression of the L4 and/or S1 nerve roots may also cause foot drop.4

    Herniated Disc Or Bulging Disc

    A herniated or ruptured disc isnot the same as a bulging disc. A bulging disc also results from the same causes of a herniated or ruptured disc age and wear and tear of the discs which over time, can dehydrate and stiffen the disc cartilage. However, a bulging disc tends to flatten and extend out beyond the vertebra. If it extends far enough beyond the bone, it can rub against a nerve, causing pain.

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    The Symptoms Of Sciatica Depend On Circumstances

    Sciatica is a common set of symptoms. The severity of these symptoms depends on a few different factors.

    For example, pain and numbness with sciatica are usually worse in the morning. Youre also likely to feel worse when sitting or driving. Coughing or sneezing adds also to the pain for some people.

    When Is Surgery Considered

    Piriformis Syndrome – A Cause Of Sciatica

    Spinal surgery is usually not recommended unless you have not improved with other treatment methods such as stretching and medication, your pain is worsening, you have severe weakness in the muscles in your lower extremities or you have lost bladder or bowel control.

    How soon surgery would be considered depends on the cause of your sciatica. Surgery is typically considered within a year of ongoing symptoms. Pain that is severe and unrelenting and is preventing you from standing or working and youve been admitted to a hospital would require more aggressive treatment and a shorter timeline to surgery. Loss of bladder or bowel control could require emergency surgery if determined to be cauda equine syndrome.

    The goal of spinal surgery for sciatic pain is to remove the pressure on the nerves that are being pinched and to make sure the spine is stable.

    Surgical options to relieve sciatica include:

    Microdiscectomy: This is a minimally invasive procedure used to remove fragments of a herniated disk that are pressing on a nerve.

    • Laminectomy: In this procedure, the lamina that is causing pressure on the sciatic nerve is removed.

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    Depression And Negative Emotions

    Stress can be a trigger for any kind of pain, including sciatica. According to Dr. John Sarno, a Physician at the New York University Medical Center and Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine Professor at New York University School of Medicine, bodily pain can be a result of repressed emotions and stress.

    Sciatica and Dr. Sarnos study on mind-body pain became topics of interest for people who suffer pain in their the lumbar area, buttocks, legs, and feet. For years, he has been advocating a different approach to determining the cause and managing back pain that is associated with emotions rather than those that are picked up through MRI scans or verified using a diagnostic injection.

    Needless to say, not all medical professionals have been supportive of his straightforward yet patient-centric way on diagnosing and treating back pains.

    Sciatica Foot Pain Exercises

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    You honestly dont know what pain is until youve experienced nerve pain. To say that it is among the most excruciating and intense forms of pain, there is a gross understatement. Think searing heat, electric shock, and lightning bolts all wrapped into one. Yup, that should paint a pretty clear picture.

    The mother of them all is the lower back, leg, and foot pain caused by sciatica. It holds the crown for the most dreaded type of nerve damage there is.

    What makes sciatica so painful? Is it curable? Is there anything you can do to make it better if you have it?

    This guide explores the answers to these questions in-depth and details the exercises you can do to relieve sciatica, causing foot pain.

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    How Do You Relieve Shin Pain From Sciatica

    Sciatica treatment

  • Oral medications: Anti-inflammatories, prescription pain medications, steroids and muscle relaxants can all be used to relieve pain and improve mobility in people with sciatica.
  • Physical therapy: Stretching exercises and other physical therapy maneuvers can ease pressure on the pinched sciatic nerve.
  • Other Causes Of Foot Tingling

    Can foot pain cause back pain?

    Of course, there are other causes to foot tingling out there. For instance, those who suffer from diabetes may be at risk for diabetic neuropathy, which can occur during bouts of very high blood sugar. This neuropathy damages nerves that send normal signals to your extremities, including your feet, and causing numbness and tingling. The sensation may even begin to feel like a mild burn. If you have diabetes and are experiencing foot tingling and numbness, its imperative to contact your doctor immediately, as diabetic neuropathy can quickly take a turn for the worse.

    On another note, some women also experience this tingling sensation in their feet during pregnancy. With the massive changes that their bodies undergo, the shifting of the uterus may put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing that all too familiar pins-and-needles sensation.

    The moral of the story? If youre experiencing tingling and numbness in your feet, dont blow it off. Take it seriously and seek medical help immediately. Its best to know for certain what youre dealing with and have the right, informed help to guide you back to full health.

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