Sometimes lower back pain occurs only in the area of your belt line. At other times it can radiate pain down a leg. This distinction is important as the former, lower back pain only, is often less complicated and carries a more favorable outlook for complete recovery. In fact, when we examine new patients a large part the checkup is focused on this differentiation. When the lower back pain is not isolated but rather spreads pain down to the legs there is a serious possibility that the sufferer has Sciatica. This blog post will focus on the different types of leg pain that can occur with different low back pain conditions.
We’ve all heard of the word “sciatica" which is usually used loosely to describe various types of lower back pain. Sciatica is often used to refer to everything from low back pain coming from the joints in the back, to the sacroiliac (sit bones) joint, to the muscles of the low back, to a nerve that has been pinched by a ruptured disk. Strictly speaking, the term “sciatica” should only be used when the sciatic nerve is pinched. The sciatic nerve is made up of five smaller nerves that arise from the spine and join together to form one large nerve about the size of your pinky. Sciatica occurs when any one of the small nerves, or the sciatic nerve itself, gets compressed or irritated. This is often caused from a lumbar disk bulge (the “ruptured disk”), a mis-positioned vertebra (such as a forward slip of the vertebra called “spondylolisthesis”), pressure from an arthritic spur off the spine where the nerve exits (“spinal stenosis”), or a tumor near the nerve. A non-disk related cause for sciatica called “pseudosciatica," includes a pinch from the piriformis muscle where the nerve passes through the pelvis in the buttocks. This type of sciatica has been commonly referred to as “wallet sciatica” as sitting on the wallet in the back pocket is often the cause. Other “pseudosciatic” causes include referred pain from the low back joints which is described by a patient as a “deep ache” inside the leg, or a metabolic condition where the nerve is affected such as diabetes. Direct trauma like a bruise to the buttocks from falling or the nerve being hit during an injection into the buttocks can also trigger “sciatica.”
The symptoms of sciatica include pain in the low back, buttocks, back of the thigh, calf and/or foot and/or numbness-tingling. If the nerve is compressed hard enough, muscle weakness can occur making it hard to stand up on the tip toes. This can even create a limp when walking. In our office, we perform diagnostic tests to identify nerve damage, bulging disk(s) and other lower back problems. It's important to determine the root cause of lower back pain rather than automatically assuming that a patient has sciatica.
The good news is that chiropractic methods can resolve this problem frequently, thus avoiding a potential surgical procedure! So, check with Eastside Chiropractic before a surgical consultation. We realize you have a choice of healthcare providers. If you, a friend or family member requires care for low back pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward to serving you and your family presently and in the future.