Lower back pain is a common problem experienced by most people at some point during their lifetime. There are several causes for lower back pain with sciatica, and the intensity of pain can range from dull to quite severe. Men and women are equally affected by this condition. Most cases of back pain tend to resolve on its own. Lower back pain is experienced around the lower parts of the back and near the buttocks. It is one of the most common back conditions. With proper self-care, most cases resolve on their own in a couple of weeks.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a painful condition that is experienced if there is a problem with the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. The nerve runs from the lower back and extends all the way to the back of your legs ending at your feet. Sciatica can cause a number of symptoms that may be highly painful and difficult to manage. Pain from this nerve can be felt from the lower back or buttocks, down to the leg. The pain may also feel like tingling or numbness. It is more common for the pain to be felt more in one leg than another.
What is a lower back pain?
Lower back pain is perhaps one of the most common problems affecting most people. The severity of lower back pain may vary according to the cause. The majority of the cases of lower back pain are "mechanical," which means that no single factor can be attributed to them.
Lower Back Pain with Sciatica
It is a condition where a person experiences lower back pain and sciatica simultaneously. In such cases, one of these conditions usually leads to the other. The two conditions may have similar symptoms and causes making it difficult to treat.
If you have such a condition, the symptoms of sciatica will tend to be more apparent when compared to those caused by lower back pain. Most symptoms involve the nerves located in the lower part of the back. A person experiencing lower back pain and someone suffering from sciatica may show very similar symptoms. They may include the following:
- pain in the lower spine
- pain in the nerves around the buttocks
- pain is felt at the back of the legs when sitting
- weakness and numbness of legs and buttocks
- hip pain
- difficulty moving the legs
Sciatica is not a diagnosis but a description of symptoms. Anything that places pressure on these nerve roots can cause pain in parts or all of the sciatic nerve. Such causes may include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis - As people age, the spine often changes leading to the degeneration of the vertebral bones and connective tissues. These changes may lead to spinal stenosis. It is a condition that causes the narrowing of the spinal canal located in the lower back. As a result, the discs press against the sciatic nerve. This condition is also a common cause of lower back pain.
- Muscle spasm - basically refers to the contractions of the muscles in the back, which results in lower back pain due to the pressing of the tissues. This condition may occur if the muscle is injured, not working properly, or is deprived of circulation. A muscle spasm also causes sciatica when it occurs in the buttocks or back, where it is close enough to the sciatic nerve.
- Overweight - Being overweight is known to cause both sciatica and lower back pain at the same time. People who are overweight exert a lot of pressure on their lower backs, causing the aching of their joints or compression of their sciatic nerve.
- Poor posture - Having a poor posture is also a factor that can lead to a lower back pain with sciatica. Poor posture, especially when practiced for a long time is known to cause the condition. Bad posture results in the compression of one side of the tissues due to the body weight.
- Injuries - These are both injuries caused by trauma or a blow to the lower back and hip area. It may cause ruptures or tearing of the spine tissues, causing the condition.
- Piriformis Syndrome – The sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle in the buttocks and sciatica pain can occur when this muscle pinches the sciatic nerve. This condition is called as the "piriformis syndrome." This condition usually develops after an injury and may be sometimes difficult to diagnose.
- Herniated disc - Another cause of severe back pain and sciatica is a herniated disc. This condition occurs when any one of the small, spongy discs located in between your vertebrae become damaged and bulged out. The condition is called a herniated, ruptured, or slipped disc. When it affects the lower back, it may press on the sciatic nerve roots and causes pain, numbness, and weakness along the route of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back.
- Spondylolisthesis - is a slipping of one vertebra over another that most commonly occurs in the base of the spine. When this occurs, the spinal nerve root gets compressed and causes sciatic nerve pain.
- Tumors within the spine – Tumors in the spine can be benign or cancerous. Fortunately, they rarely happen. However, a tumor within the spine can cause back pain and compression of the sciatic nerve root leading to sciatica.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SI joint pain) - This joint is located at the bottom of the spine and an irritation to this joint can also cause an irritation of the nerves, thereby, causing lower back pain and sciatica-type leg pain.
- Spinal Adjustment - is one of the most common type of treatment in chiropractic care. A chiropractor will perform the procedure. It is believed that a spinal manipulation produces a nervous system response that can relieve and restore the injured area. This procedure can also minimize inflammation and promotes the natural healing power of the body.
- Acupuncture - This ancient procedure involves the insertion of very thin needles into the different points on your body. There are people with lower back pain who find relief with acupuncture. However, if the pain still persists and does not improve after a few weeks, this procedure might not be the treatment for you.
- Yoga - Even though the effects of yoga on lower back pain and sciatica are not that clear, a yoga practice can help people deal with their painful condition by improving their flexibility as well as strengthening their muscles.
- Exercise and Physical Therapy - You can consult a physical therapist, who can help you restore back strength and flexibility through stretching exercises. Doing exercises can help increase the blood flow to your disks and nerves, thereby, eliminating certain chemicals that cause the inflammation.
The Bottom Line
Lower back pain with sciatica is a simple condition that can easily be prevented by understanding the causes of both conditions. An important factor in determining the duration of the situation and severity of the pain levels depends on one’s attitude. For example, people with the above-mentioned symptoms who are also depressed and stressed are more likely to experience a chronic (long-term) lower back pain. On the other hand, those who are more or less stress-free and have little complicating psychological factors will improve rapidly with treatment.