Do you have lower back, hip, and leg pain? Nearly 40 percent of Americans experience sciatica flare-ups, according to the Harvard Medical School. If you’re one of the many adults with this common pain problem, take a look at what you need to know about the symptoms and treatment of sciatica.
Lower Spine or Back Pain
Twenty percent of people with acute back pain are likely to develop chronic problems, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
While sciatica isn’t always the cause of lower back or spine discomfort, it’s one of the top culprits behind this type of physical pain. Other potential causes include congenital or skeletal irregularities, sprains, traumatic injury, intervertebral disc degeneration, spondylosis, arthritis or inflammatory disease, spinal nerve compression, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.
Given the variety of potential causes, you shouldn’t assume lower back or spine pain is sciatica. Only a qualified medical provider should diagnose and treat this condition. The provider may recommend an X-ray, MRI, EMG, or CT scan along with a physical exam and health history to diagnose this condition. After diagnosis, the doctor will create a treatment plan. This could include physical therapy, injections, or another option.
Unlike muscle injuries and other lumbar region pain problems, the discomfort of sciatica isn’t likely to stop in your back. Your pain may extend from the lower spine through the buttocks region — along the sciatic nerve.
Different people may have different pain experiences with sciatica. Some patients have a pain that shoots down their lower back, into their buttocks, and beyond, while others have a throbbing type of discomfort or feel an electric shock. If you have any type of pain, pressure, or discomfort in the back and buttocks areas that don’t resolve, contact a provider who specializes in pain-related problems.
Leg and Calf Pain
Along with lower back, spine, or buttocks pain, sciatica discomfort may extend down your leg and into the calf area. Like other types of physical pain, leg and calf issues may have several possible causes. These can include anything from muscle or tendon injuries to varicose veins or poor circulation.
Leg pain from sciatica typically goes downwards through one leg. You may also have numbness or tingling in the leg or calf area.
The treatment options for sciatic leg or back pain are often the same as what the doctor or specialist would offer for back or buttocks discomfort. Again, treatment requires a professional diagnosis by a qualified licensed medical provider. Leg pain from an injury (such as muscle strain or bone fracture) requires a different type of treatment than sciatic pain.
Even though sciatica and a leg injury are different, an injury causes sciatica. Sciatic leg pain (and discomfort in other related body areas) comes from the sciatic nerve. Even though you may only feel the pain in your leg or calf, it’s likely this feeling has more to do with your back or spine. A herniated disk, bone spur, narrowing of the spine, or spinal nerve compression are the common causes behind sciatic leg pain.
Some sciatica pain can extend into the foot. Again, the sciatic nerve extended from the lower back, spine, or buttocks through the leg. This means it’s possible to feel pain, discomfort, numbness, tingling, or another odd sensation throughout the entire area.
Foot pain, like other types of physical discomfort, can have many potential causes. An obvious injury to the foot following an accident or other similar issue isn’t likely to come from the sciatic nerve. But if the pain has no other cause, starts at the top of the leg and moves downward, or you have a known lower back issue (such as a herniated disk), sciatica is a culprit to consider.
No one needs to live with foot (or any other) pain. Never ignore persistent discomfort. If you have a new or chronic foot pain that doesn’t go away with at-home treatment, a specialized medical provider can help you to find relief. Even though you may feel the pain in your foot, the treatment may need to focus on the rest of your leg and lower back — or the entire length of the nerve.
It’s possible for sciatic foot, leg, buttocks, and back pain to go away temporarily without treatment. But this doesn’t mean your foot discomfort won’t come back during another nerve attack.
Your doctor or a specialist will evaluate the pain, provide an exam, and help you to decide on the best course of treatment. Like with other types of sciatica pain, physical therapy, injections, and other alternative treatments may help to stop chronic or persistent nerve-related foot pain.
Do you need help to treat sciatic nerve pain or discomfort? Contact Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for more information.