Your lower back takes a lot of stress and strain throughout the day, so it’s not surprising that it’s a frequent source of pain. Lower back pain can be caused by many things, such as repetitive lifting, standing or sitting for long periods of time, or having a bad posture.
Sciatica is one type of back pain that’s a little different from other kinds of pain, and it can cause some pretty distinctive symptoms. It’s also pretty common, affecting as many as 40% of women and men at some point in their lifetime.
Sciatica is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in your body. The sciatic nerve travels down your spinal column. It then exits your spinal column in your lower back and splits in two, traveling down both legs.
Sometimes the sciatic nerve can get pinched or compressed by a herniated disc or bone spur. If this happens, the nerve can send pain signals into the lower back and anywhere along its route. People with sciatica frequently experience symptoms on one side of their body, such as:
- Pain in the buttocks, legs, or feet
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the back, buttocks, legs, or feet
- Pins-and-needles sensations in the legs
- Weakness or loss of coordination in the legs (in severe cases)
Furthermore, leg and buttock pain in sciatica tends to be more severe than pain in the lower back. Plus, while muscle strain symptoms are usually relieved by sitting or lying down, sciatica symptoms usually feel worse when trying to rest. That’s because sitting and lying flat can increase pressure on the nerve, which can make your symptoms feel worse. Walking and standing still can also cause symptoms to flare up.
When it comes to the low back pain of sciatica, it usually feels like a dull or throbbing ache rather than a shooting or sharp pain. And while other problems, such as muscle strains, can also cause dull aching, you can differentiate sciatica from other types of lower back pain by making a note of the symptoms above, which are more specific to sciatica.
Since sciatica is caused by compression on the sciatic nerve, treatment is focused on relieving pressure on the nerve, which will then eliminate the irritation.
Many people benefit from physical therapy. Guided exercise and stretching techniques can help relieve pressure on the nerve and also help improve strength and flexibility in the lower back.
If exercises don’t help, steroid injections may offer relief. Steroids can help reduce the inflammation and irritation around the nerve. A Botox® injection may also help relax muscles that may be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If injections are recommended, they’re usually used in combination with physical therapy to provide both immediate and long-term relief.
Whether your back pain is caused by sciatica or another underlying problem, the team at Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation can help you get well again. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.