Leg pain and sciatica

Overview

Sciatica is a sharp pain that starts in the lower back, travels down one leg’s back and into the buttock. The discomfort is frequently brought on by a herniated disc, bone spurs, or a muscular strain placing pressure on the sciatic nerve (Fig. 1). In the prevention, treatment, and recovery from leg pain, you are crucial. Rest, physical therapy, and other self-care techniques frequently help it get better. Surgery may assist with chronic pain.

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leg pain types

Leg pain can be transient or persistent and ranges in intensity from minor to severe.

Acute sciatic pain appears out of nowhere and often goes away within a few days to weeks. The extent of tissue damage directly affects the severity. The spinal joints, discs, nerves, muscles, and ligaments might all be the cause of the discomfort.

Chronic sciatic pain lasts more than three months and may be difficult to pinpoint the cause of. Chronic pain may be constant or get worse when doing particular things. Nerve injury, tissue scarring, arthritis, or the psychological impact of pain are possible contributing causes. Those who experience persistent problems can be referred to a pain expert (see Pain Management).

What signs are present?

Low back and buttock discomfort are the typical entry points for sciatica. It affects one leg, extending past the knee, down the back of the thigh, and occasionally into the calf and foot. Leg discomfort is more intense than back discomfort. It might feel anything from little discomfort to intense searing or shooting agony. Leg and foot tingling or numbness (pins and needles) is a possibility. Unless you have foot drop or muscular weakness in your legs, this normally isn’t a problem.

Due to the pressure this posture places on the discs, sitting typically causes the most discomfort. Activities like bending or twisting make the discomfort worse, however resting down usually makes it go away. In contrast to prolonged sitting or standing, moving about by running or walking may feel better.

If you have severe leg weakness, genital numbness, or loss of bladder or bowel control, get medical attention right once. These symptoms point to cauda equina syndrome, a disease.

What causes this?

Numerous disorders that irritate or compress the sciatic nerve might result in sciatica:

Piriformis syndrome: The nerve can get compressed when the piriformis muscle contracts or spasms.

Trauma: A fall or sports accident can break the spine, rupture a muscle, and harm nerves.

Herniated disc: When a spinal disc ruptures or bulges via a weak spot in the disc wall, it presses on nearby nerves.

Stenosis: The spinal cord and nerves may get compressed when the bone canals in the spine narrow.

Osteoarthritis: Discs naturally dry up and shrink as they become older. It may hurt if the disc wall has a small tear. Bone spurs may develop. The ligaments thicken and the facet joints expand.

Spondylolisthesis: A facet joint weakening or stress fracture can cause a vertebra to slide out of place and press against nerves.

An issue with the hip or sacroiliac joint might potentially be the source of leg discomfort. Although extremely prevalent, this kind of transferred pain is not sciatica.

How are diagnoses arrived at?

Your spine condition will be thoroughly examined in an effort to identify its kind, root cause, and potential treatments. A medical history and physical examination are part of a diagnostic evaluation. Imaging studies, such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, as well as assessments of muscular power and reflexes, are often employed.

Self-care: Rest, cold or heat, massage, painkillers, and light stretches are frequently effective treatments for sciatica. During the first 48 to 72 hours, use an ice pack on the affected muscles for 20 minutes at a time, multiple times each day. After that, you may add a warm shower or a heating pad on low heat to help the muscles relax. A little duration of bed rest is OK, but more than a few days of it is detrimental. Consult a doctor if self-care measures don’t relieve your symptoms during the first several days. (Read more about self-care for neck and back pain.)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are available over-the-counter and can provide relief. For spasms, a muscle relaxant may be administered. If the pain is severe, an analgesic that may be used together with the NSAID or muscle relaxant may be suggested.

Recovery and prevention

Recovering requires a healthy outlook, consistent exercise, and a fast return to work, among other things. Regular work tasks may be reduced (light or restricted) for a brief period of time if they cannot initially be done.

  • To prevent recurrence, prevention is essential.
  • Lifting correctly, avoiding prolonged sitting
  • Maintaining proper posture during moving, sitting, standing, and sleeping
  • regular stretching and strengthening exercises
  • a comfortable workspace
  • a healthy diet, weight, and lean body mass
  • Stress management and relaxation

Acute is the reverse of chronic and refers to a disorder with a rapid start and brief duration.

Cauda equina syndrome is an emergency disease that, if ignored, can result in paralysis. It causes low back discomfort, numbness in the saddle area (groyne), acute leg weakness, and difficulties managing bladder or bowel function.

A chronic ailment is the reverse of an acute disease in that it progresses slowly over time.

Sciatica is a term used to describe discomfort that travels down the legs and along the sciatic nerve. usually brought on by the fifth lumbar spinal nerve being compressed.

Any condition that affects the spinal nerve roots is referred to as radiculopathy. Also used to indicate discomfort that travels down the leg along the sciatic nerve.

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