Your Back Pain May Be From Sciatica
Sciatica is a condition you’ve probably heard about, it’s a painful, annoying condition where you experience pain that radiates down from your lower back, hips, buttocks and down your leg, but only on one side of your body. Sometimes your feet and toes feel tingly and numb. You may even feel shooting, electrical pains going up and down the back or the outside of your thighs and calves.
Sciatica is a term used to describe the symptoms you experience if you have a pinched or compressed sciatic nerve on one side of your body. The two sciatic nerves, one on each side of the body, run down the lengths of your legs. The sciatic nerves are the human body’s largest and longest nerves. These two sciatica nerves connect the spinal cord to the leg muscles of the thigh and lower leg, including the outside of the thigh and the hamstrings (where sciatica pain symptoms are often felt). Each sciatica branches out to the entire leg and foot, and is responsible for controlling the motor and sensory function of each leg.
The most likely cause of your sciatica pain is the pinching of a highly sensitive sciatic nerve root by a nearby herniated or slipped disc in your lower back. When one spinal vertebra slips over another, the protruding segment of bone can impinge one of the sciatica nerve roots in the area. This pinching creates inflammation and irritation, which is responsible for a set of symptoms you’ll recognize as prickling, numbness, pain, and possibly weakness of the leg and foot.
More often than not, if your sciatica symptoms are caused by a slipped disc they will resolve on their own with minimal treatment. If your pain doesn’t improve, your doctor might suggest some conservative treatment like anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, physical therapy or even steroid injections. Surgery is an option if the compressed nerve causes significant weakness or when pain progressively worsens or doesn’t improve with other therapies. Since sciatica is a symptom, not a disease, it can be a sign of another underlying spinal condition that may need specific treatment: for example, sciatica can be caused by degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
The bottom line: if you have sciatica pain, weakness, or numbness, don’t assume it’s a minor annoyance that will go away on its own; a visit to a doctor is needed to diagnose your symptoms and to gauge whether a more serious problem may be the cause of your nerve impairment.