Can Leg or Back Pain Actually Be Sciatica?
If you’ve been experiencing consistent leg or back pain (or perhaps you’d describe it as a burning or tingling sensation), sciatica might be the culprit.
Sciatica is a term that describes the symptoms of leg pain that starts in the lower back, moves through the buttocks and into the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg.
Sciatica also often includes:
- Consistent pain in one side of the buttock or leg that worsens when you sit down.
- Weakness or numbness that makes it difficult to move your leg, foot, or toes.
- Sharp pain that makes it difficult to walk or stand.
- Pain that travels down just one leg and into the foot and toes.
Two very common types of pain that traces back to sciatica are piriformis syndrome and a herniated disc/bulging disc.
The piriformis muscle connects the lower spine to the thigh and makes hip rotation possible. Piriformis syndrome develops when muscle spasms crop up in the piriformis muscle and compress the sciatic nerve that’s located underneath.
If you are experiencing pain in the hip, the center of the buttocks, or down the back of the leg, you may be suffering from piriformis syndrome.
A Herniated Disc/Bulging Disc
With a bulging disc, the gel-like center protrudes but stays within the outer wall of the disc. A herniated disc, on the other hand, occurs when the gel-like center breaks through the disc.
Whether a disc is bulging or herniating, disc material presses against a nearby nerve root, pushing down on nerve tissue and causing sciatica. In either case, nerve compression and irritation results in both inflammation and pain, causing numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
This pain can occur anywhere on the spine, but usually affects the lower back.
Think you might have sciatica? Here’s what to do next.
Home Care Treatment
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles in the back of the thigh that help bend the knee and extend the hip; stretching your hamstrings may help ease your lower back pain. Unfortunately, most of our daily activities don’t involve the hamstrings, so stretching exercises keeps them healthy.
Secrets behind powerful hamstring stretches:
- When you can, warm up before stretching with a 10-minute walk will help get your blood pumping.
- Ease into the stretch gently and hold it for about 10 seconds, twice per day. Over time, you can increase to 30 seconds or more each time.
- Remember to breathe!
Hamstring Stretches While Lying on Your Back
If you’re experiencing low back pain or leg pain, you might benefit from hamstring stretching exercises done while lying on the back, which is least stressful on the rest of your body.
Use A Towel:
- Lie on your back, supporting your thigh with your hand or with a towel wrapped around it.
- Slowly straighten your knee until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh. The ultimate goal is for the bottom of your foot to face the ceiling.
- Hold the position initially for 10 seconds, and gradually work up to 20 to 30 seconds, stretching one leg at a time.
Use A Wall:
- Lie back on the floor with your buttocks against a wall at a corner or by a door jamb.
- Keeping one leg on the floor, place your foot of your alternate leg against the wall and try to gently push your knee straight so the raised leg and the leg on the floor make a 90-degree angle.
- Hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds.
Hamstring Stretches While Sitting
Hamstring stretches from a seated position can be varied based on the placement of your leg.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
- Sitting at the edge of a chair, straighten one leg in front of you, with your heel on the floor.
- Sit up straight and push your navel towards your thigh, but don’t lean the rest of your body forward.
- Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times for each leg.
Give each exercise a try and decide which one feels best for you.
If you’re not experiencing pain relief from the home care exercises, or if your symptoms are prolonged or recurring, it may be time to schedule a full chiropractic exam. A chiropractor will identify the cause of your pain, provide immediate relief, and develop a treatment plan that fits your specific needs.
Treatment for pain relief often includes a chiropractic adjustment, applying gentle pressure on the painful areas to help reduce nerve irritability and restore your range of motion. Mobilization techniques may also be used, which stretch your sore muscles and joints so they’ll feel better right away.
Beyond immediate relief, a key component of any successful treatment plan involves getting to know the patient and setting goals for the future. A holistic treatment plan that includes therapeutic treatment, maintenance care, exercise, and activity modification can help get rid of your pain for good.
This article isn’t intended to provide diagnosis or treatment – there’s no substitute for professional consultation about your specific symptoms. You shouldn’t have to endure leg or back pain – call us at (256) 333-9429 or schedule an appointment online.