Causes Of Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatica can be caused by any issue that compresses the sciatic nerve. Many people experience sciatic nerve pain because of a bulging or herniated disc. Spinal stenosis, where the spinal column gets narrower because of aging, can also cause sciatica.
Other conditions that can lead to sciatic nerve pain include:
- Bad posture
- Nerve disorders
Without relief, sciatica can lead to serious health complications because of the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Some of the issues that could arise include:
- Ending up with a slipped or herniated disc
- Increasing levels of pain
- Losing control of your bowels or bladder
- Losing feeling in the leg affected by sciatic nerve pain
- Irreversible nerve damage
Risk factors for sciatica
Sciatica appears to affect men and women equally. The condition often starts in individuals after they turn 40. Height only seems to make a difference in the level of sciatic nerve pain experienced in people between the ages of 50 and 60. Its uncommon for individuals 20 and younger to develop sciatica outside of a traumatic event.
There does appear to be an occupational tie to the condition. People who work as machine operators or truck drivers or in other jobs that place them in awkward positions for extended periods may be more prone to developing sciatica.
Bending Over When Lifting Heavy Objects
Whether you are carrying groceries to your kitchen from your car, picking up your child from the bed, or moving flowerpots in your garden, you are placing large amounts of workload on your lumbar discs. When your lumbar discs are overworked, there is an increased risk for developing herniated discs. This, in turn, can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve.
Where Is Sciatic Pain Typically Felt
An individual suffering from sciatica feels pain due to radiating along the sciatic nerve. It starts from your lower spine and travels to the back of your leg and down the buttocks. Various problems in your lower back can cause the sciatic nerve to become irritated or pinched, which then causes nerve pain in these areas.
The pain is generally felt in one leg only. Sciatica symptoms include a type of pain that may be searing or sharp. Burning pain is also a type of pain possible.
You will experience different kinds of muscle pain, lower back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, or arm pain, depending on where your sciatica is located. Different nerve roots produce other sensations and different pain signals based on location.
Sciatica is most commonly associated with the lumbar spine and sacrum. The source of your sciatic pain will create slightly different symptoms from each other.
L4 Nerve Root
Pain in the hips, thighs, inner knees, calves, and feet may be caused by irritation to the L4 nerve root. The thighs and hips may feel weak, and the calves may feel numb.
If sciatica is at the L4 level, the person may lose the ability to bend their foot or walk on their heels, and their knee-jerk reflex may be decreased.
L5 Nerve Root
S1 Nerve Root
The third, fourth, and fifth toes may also be numb or tingling in individuals with sciatica from the S1 level.
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What Are Some Less Common Causes Of Sciatica
Some lesser-known causes of sciatica can include:
- Endometriosis, a growing of uterine tissue outside of the uterus that can accumulate in areas that surround the sciatic nerve or the sciatic nerve itself
- Infection in the spine or spinal column that causes an abscess to form and press on the sciatic nerve or damage to the nerve itself
- Nerve damage from diabetes
- Shifting or growing of a fetus during pregnancy that can result in nerve compression
- Side effects from medications
Another common source of traumatic injury is direct damage to the peroneal nerve, says Dr. Subach. This often results from a knee dislocation or lower leg fracture and may present as numbness in the back of the calf or weakness in the ankle when pointing the toes toward the shin. Infrequently, it may occur in a post-operative knee or hip replacement patient. Ruling out a spinal cause in such cases is imperative.
Common Sciatica Cause #: Lumbar Bulging Disc Or Herniated Disc
The discs in the spine serve several functions, including giving the spine its flexibility, acting as cushions for the vertebrae, and evenly transferring the load placed on the spine from one disc to another. Disc bulging and herniation occur more frequently in the lumbar spine simply because that part of the spine supports the entire weight of the upper body as well as whatever objects you may need to pick up.
Bulging and herniated discs are almost the same, but not quite. A bulging disc is a contained disc disorder. The gel-like center of the disc remains “contained” within the tire-like outer wall of the disc but can extend the outer wall enough to press on a nearby nerve or nerve root.
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus breaks through the annulus fibrosus. It is called a non-contained disc disorder. Whether a disc bulges or herniates, disc material can press against an adjacent nerve root and compress delicate nerve tissue and cause sciatica. This compression can occur on only one side of the sciatic nerve and cause symptoms on only one side of the body or compress it on both sides and give you symptoms on both sides of the body .
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Sciatica Vs Piriformis Syndrome
First, its important to know that sciatic and piriformis syndrome has many of the same symptoms. Thats why its so easy to mistake them for each other. However, the primary symptoms of piriformis syndrome include:
- Pain in the buttocks that is worse when sitting
- Pain in the opposite sacroiliac joint
- Pain when sitting or standing for 20 minutes
- Iain when sitting or squatting down
- Pain that is felt from the sacrum down the back of the thigh that usually stops just above the knee
- Pain that lessens with movement
- Numbness of the foot
The main thing to remember is that the underlying causes of these conditions are different. Sciatic is a series of symptoms that are caused by another issue, such as a herniated disc. Piriformis syndrome occurs when your sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed by your piriformis muscle, deep in your pelvis.
Questions To Answer Before Considering Sciatica Surgery
Sciatica is the type of pain that originates in your lower back and typically radiates down one or both of your legs. It results from the inflammation of the sciatic nerve in your lower back. The medical term for sciatica is lumbar radiculopathy: pinching of a nerve as it exits the spine.
Surgery is one of the treatment options for sciatica, but it’s not for everyone. Below are some important questions to consider before making your decision, addressed by orthopaedic surgeon Brian Neuman.
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Common Sciatica Cause #: Trauma
In some cases, trauma can directly cause sciatica. Examples include motor vehicle accidents , falling, and contact sports . The impact may injure the nerves themselves or fragments of broken bone may compress the nerves.
In addition to high-energy traumas like MVAs, other forms of trauma that can cause sciatica include pelvic fracture or hip dislocation that cause nearby hamstrings to tear and irritate the sciatic nerve. It can also be the result of objects penetrating the body and cutting/tearing the nerve, such as a bullet or knife.
What Does Sciatica Feel Like
The hallmark sign of sciatica is one-sided pain that begins in the low back and radiates down the buttock, thigh, calf and foot. Sciatica rarely affects both sides of the body. You can experience symptoms anywhere along the nerve pathway, but pain is usually more severe in the leg and foot than in the low back. Symptoms include:
- Pain thats described as shooting, burning, stabbing or electric
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness in the leg or foot
Sciatic pain can be constant or come and go. Movements that aggravate or worsen sciatic pain include coughing, sneezing, standing up, and sitting or standing for long periods of time.
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How Can I Tell If Pain In My Hip Is A Hip Issue Or Sciatica
Hip problems, such as arthritis in the hip, usually cause groin pain, pain when you put weight on your leg, or when the leg is moved around.
If your pain starts in the back and moves or radiates towards the hip or down the leg and you have numbness, tingling or weakness in the leg, sciatica is the most likely cause.
Neck Pain And Sciatica
Neck pain and sciatica seem like unrelated symptomatic expressions, since they are so far removed from one another anatomically. In some cases, there may be no relationship at all between these 2 coincidental expressions of suffering. However, in other instances, the 2 symptom sets may be sourced from the exact same causative process.
This article will explore the often mysterious relationship between 2 of the most prevalent of all dorsalgia concerns sciatica and neck pain. We will look at how these 2 pain syndromes might coexist without a common link, as well as why the expressions may also be tied to a single causative mechanism in the cervical spine.
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What Is A Herniated Disc
Herniation describes an abnormality of the intervertebral disc that is also known as a “bulging,””ruptured,” or “torn” disc. This process occurs when the inner core of the intervertebral disc bulges out through the outer layer of ligaments that surround the disc . This tear in the annulus fibrosis causes pain in the back at the point of herniation. If the protruding disc presses on a spinal nerve, the pain may spread to the area of the body that is served by that nerve. Between each vertebra in the spine is a pair of spinal nerves, which branch off from the spinal cord to a specific area in the body. Any part of the skin that can experience hot and cold, pain or touch, refers that sensation to the brain through one of these nerves. In turn, pressure on a spinal nerve from a herniated disc will cause pain in the part of the body that is served by that nerve. Most disc ruptures occur when a person is in their 30s or 40s when the nucleus pulposus is still a gelatin-like substance.
Four Degrees of Disc Herniation
Sciatica: Causes Symptoms And Treatments
If you suffer from sciatica, you know how painful it can be. It can disrupt your daily life, affecting everything from sitting in the car to standing in the kitchen to make a meal.
Sciatica is a term used for any pain or symptom that causes numbness or sensation like tingling along the sciatic nerve. This means sciatic nerve pain isnt a true diagnosis, but a description of the pain you are experiencing that can help doctors properly assess your pain to determine a source.
The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back through your hips and down each leg. Generally, when a patient experiences sciatica, it only affects one side of the body.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Herniated Disc/pinched Nerve
Usually, a persons main complaint is back pain. In some cases, there may be a previous history of episodes of localized lower back pain, which is present in the back and continues down the leg that is served by the affected nerve. This pain is usually described as a deep and sharp pain, which gets worse as it moves down the affected leg. The onset of pain with a herniated disc may occur out of the blue or it may be announced by a tearing or snapping sensation in the spine that is thought to be the result of a sudden tear of part of the annulus fibrosis.
A person with a herniated disc will usually complain of lower back pain that may or may not radiate into different parts of the body. They will often have limited range of motion when asked to bend forward or lean backward, and they may lean to one side as they try to bend forward. Sometimes, they walk with a painful gait, flexing the affected leg so as not to put too much weight on the side of the body that hurts.
Mindbody Sciatica Shin Pain
In the many letters you send to us, I recognize that the majority of you with mindbody sciatica pain in the shins fall into one of 2 possible categories.
The first are serious runners who are often impaired from performing up to their ability by this chronic leg pain. Although structural diagnoses are common, and might include shin splints and a variety of soft tissue disorders, statistics cite that many are actually psychosomatic pain syndromes enacted through regional ischemia. Runners, in general, are very prone to these mindbody conditions.
The second category of mindbody shin pain sufferers typically includes people who stand as part of their jobs, often in one place for many hours. Once again, structural issues can create pain which may or may not be related to standing.
However, given the application of knowledge therapy to route out the often work-related emotional issues at the real heart of the pain, the symptoms usually completely resolve.
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Hip Pain And What Might Be Causing It
Hip pain is often much less serious than sciatica, as its not caused by nerve damage. Hip pain refers to any pain or irritation you may be feeling in the outside of your hips, upper thighs, your hip joint, or buttocks. This pain is often caused by damage to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons. It is a pain that radiates from the soft tissue instead of from the nerve.
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Is Sciatic Pain Permanent Or Will It Go Away
There are few things worse in the world than chronic back pain, if youre currently suffering from sciatica or you have suffered in the past youll know how quickly it can take over your life and rob you of the ability to do even the most mundane day-to-day activities.
Over time this can have a serious impact on your physical and emotional wellness, so its more than valid to wonder if the pain will ever go away or if youre going to suffer from it for life.
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Severe Pain In Crotch Groin And Sciatica Pain
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Leg Pain Causes Symptoms And Treatment
Sciatica is known as the pain associated with the sciatic nerve in the body. This nerve is one of the largest nerves of the body. This nerve is made of many individual nerves that branch out from the lower part of the spine normally from 3rd lumbar segment. A single nerve root comes out of every level in the lower spine and all of them form a single large sciatic nerve. This large nerve then runs down through the buttock to the backside of each leg. In the leg, the portions branch out to the thigh, calf and then to the toes through the foot. This sciatic pain is very rare before the age of 20 and becomes common during the Middle Ages i.e. normally between the ages of 40-50. This pain is so common that some researchers have even gone to say that this pain will affect 43% of the population at one or the other point in their life.
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But How Does Sciatica Translate Into Foot And Ankle Pain
Well, if your sciatica is mild. You may feel temporary foot and ankle discomfort if you are standing for long periods at work or have to walk for a long distance. However, if more severe back problems like disc herniation or spinal stenosis are the root cause of your sciatica, it could also lead to more severe foot and ankle symptoms such as swelling, muscle spasms, or an inability to walk correctly.
Sciatic pain often starts in one leg but can then extend to both legs, into the buttocks, and down to the feet and toes. There are numerous causes for this condition, but one of two things usually trigger it: trauma an accident, illness or surgery, or a mechanical problem in your body like a herniated disk, piriformis syndrome, or pelvic congestion syndrome. It can also be caused by swelling of the spinal cord due to an infection such as Lyme disease.
The primary source of pain may be stabbing or burning in nature and often radiates down one side of the body from the spine. It can cause foot and ankle pain because it affects the nerves that travel down to these areas. Some patients also feel increasing tingling, numbness, or burning sensations when moving around or changing position.
Could sciatica be the cause of your foot and ankle pain?
If you are experiencing symptoms of pain in your feet and calves, as well as numbness or tingling in your legs, it is essential to be evaluated by a Physical Therapist because these symptoms could be signs that you have sciatica.
When Is It A Medical Emergency
Part of the problem with sciatic nerve pain is that it can obscure other more serious conditions. For instance, a recent article in World Neurosurgery indicated that lumbar radiculopathy can mask tumors growing alongside the nerve. If pain persists when palpating the cleft between the buttocks, further scans may be necessary. Any abnormal readings on those scans may indicate the presence of tumors.
As mentioned above, sciatic nerve pain symptoms can include weakness along the legs, urinary problems, and/or incontinence. These may indicate a serious medical condition, particularly if they occur suddenly. The most likely culprit would be cauda equina syndrome, a severe compression of the bundle of nerves at the end of the spine. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons notes that cauda equina syndrome most commonly results from a massive herniated disc in the lumbar region. A single excessive strain or injury may cause a herniated disc. However, disc material degenerates naturally as a person ages, and the ligaments that hold it in place begin to weaken. As this degeneration progresses, a relatively minor strain or twisting movement can cause a disc to rupture.
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