Have you ever felt weakness, numbness or tingling effect on one of your legs? Most probably, this effect is originating from the lower part of your back, and you should get an accurate medical diagnosis. Sciatica back pain comes from the sciatic nerve- a large nerve that extends from the lower back down to the legs.
Sciatica back pain occurs when a herniated disk or narrowing of the spine- spinal stenosis compresses part of the sciatic nerve. This, in turn, causes pain, numbness or inflammation on the affected leg. Sciatica back pain is sometimes severe but is treatable using nonsurgical treatment options.
Patients with extreme sciatica cases often have severe leg weakness, numbness or even bladder changes; surgery is the best option for treatment.
Sciatica Back Pain Symptoms
Sciatica back pain is characterized by one or more of the below symptoms;
- Continuous pain on one of the hip or leg – Rarely on both legs.
- The back pain or the leg pain worsens with sitting.
- Leg pain is associated with a burning, numbness or tingling effect. The pain is usually dull.
- The weakness of one the legs is experienced accompanied with difficulties in moving the affected leg, toes or foot.
- A sharp pain is experienced when standing.
Sciatica back pain varies in intensity in different patients. The pain is dependent on the position of the pinched sciatic nerve. For example;
- L4 nerve root sciatica.The symptoms affect the thigh and patients may experience weakness in straightening f the leg. Also, it causes patients to have diminished knee-jerk reflex.
- L5 nerve root sciatica.This sciatica pain extends up to the big foot toe and ankle. Any Patients with this type of sciatica experience pain or numbness on foot.
- S1 nerve root sciatica. It affects the outer part of the foot, and the pain or numbness is experienced on the small foot toe. The patients find it difficult to raise off their heels from the ground or to tiptoe.
Sometimes, more than one root nerve of the sciatic nerve may be affected, and patients may experience a combination of the above symptoms. Although sciatica is painful, rarely can it cause permanent damage to the sciatic nerve or spinal damage.
Association Between Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica Back Pain
The sciatica is the largest nerve in the human body, and it has individual nerve roots that branch from the spine in the lower back and then combine to form the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is said to occur when there is an irritation of the main sciatic nerve.
- Sciatica originates from the lower back mainly on the segment L3.
- The sciatic nerves run down from the lower back to the buttocks down to the back of the legs.
- The main sciatic nerve branches out to the two legs down to the thighs, calves feet and toes.
More About Sciatic Pain
Studies show that sciatica back pain is likely to occur in patients over the age of 40 years. It rarely occurs in patients who are 20 years and below. The condition is also found to affect 45% of the population who suffer silently.
In the case of an injury, sciatica back pain does not occur immediately but develops over time. Sciatica pain goes away by itself in most cases. It is advisable to visit a doctor in case of sciatica pain to correctly diagnose the cause and also prevent serious conditions.
How Serious can Sciatica Develop?
Rarely, sciatica back is serious and requires medical attention, maybe to the extent of surgery. When sciatica symptoms become more related to neurological symptoms, then agent medical attention is required. The symptoms include excessive leg weakness, bladder dysfunction symptoms. Spine infections and tumors can also lead to sciatica.
Medical Causes of Sciatica
When treating sciatica back pain, you need first to understand its original cause for effective treatment. Below are back conditions that could be the reason for your sciatica pain.
- Lumbar herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the soft material of a spinal disc leaks out from the inner core and irritates or pinches the nerve root. A herniated disc is also known as rupture disc, protruding disc or also a pinched nerve. The symptoms of sciatica are more related to those of a herniated lumbar disc.
- Degenerative Disc Disease. Degenerative disc disease occurs when the spine naturally degenerated due to age. When degeneration occurs in the lower back, they sometimes irritate the sciatic nerve that brings about sciatica back pain. Also, bone spurs can develop as the spine degenerates and press against the root of sciatic nerve resulting to sciatica.
- Lumbar spinal Stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis commonly affects adults at the age of 60 years and above. The condition is mainly associated with the normal aging process. As the spine narrows, it exerts pressure to the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatica back pain. It can also occur with spinal arthritis or also caused by arthritis of the spine.
Other Causes of Sciatica
Other causes lead to sciatica other than underlying spine problems. These factors include;
- Pregnancy. During pregnancy, the body undergoes many changes including weight gain, hormonal changes and also a change in the individuals’ center of gravity. These factors contribute to sciatica back pain.
Read more: How to Handle Back Pain In Pregnancy
- Scar tissue. This is also known as epidural fibroids. The fibroids compress the lumbar sciatic nerve bringing about sciatica.
- Muscle strain. In some cases, muscle strain or spasm on the back can cause inflammation that put pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatica pain.
- Spinal tumor. When a tumor originates in the spine, it can create pressure on the sciatic nerve bring about sciatic pain and symptoms. Also, tumors could develop on other parts of the body and spread as cancer affecting the spine.
- Infection. On rare occasions, infections located on the lower back can cause sciatica by affecting the root nerve of the sciatic nerve.
- Fracture. A fracture located in the lumbar region of the spine can cause symptoms of sciatica. An injury could cause the fracture to the spine or osteoporosis.
Individuals who are overweight, obese and tobacco smokers are at a higher risk of developing sciatica. Tobacco consumption contributes to spinal disc degeneration that is a major cause of sciatica.
Read More: Sciatica Treatment: Is Sciatica Treatable?