Is your back pain a sign of something else?
Back pain is a top medical complaint which is a leading cause of missed work. There are many possible causes of low back pain and it can also signal a more serious condition called sciatica. Sciatica involves compression and irritation on the sciatic nerve. This large nerve starts at the spinal cord and goes down to the hips, legs and buttocks.
According to Dr. Febin Melepura, a pain expert from the Stanford Pain and Sports Medicine in New York, in order to determine whether dealing with sciatica or lower back pain, focus on where the pain is coming from. Only 1% of all patients who experience low back pain actually have sciatica. Sciatica produces pain that is felt in one of legs or both of them while low back pain is concentrated only in the area right above the gluteal fold and under lower rib.
In many cases, pain that comes from sciatica comes as a result of a bone spur or a herniated disk which put pressure on the nerves. The majority of patients describe this pain as a burning, sharp sensation or mild pain. Muscles weakness in one or both legs and numbness in this area are two other symptoms.
Some risk factors that contribute to sciatica include diabetes, obesity and aging and same sitting position. According to Dr. Andrew Sama, an expert spine surgeon who works at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, "the first line of treatment for sciatica is rest, along with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants. If that doesn’t do the trick and improve the symptoms, we often begin physical therapy, and some practitioners advocate [for chiropractic services] or acupuncture,” said Sama. “If those interventions don't provide relief, we can often prescribe epidural steroid injections, which are typically effective.”
Only in a small number of cases when these non-invasive treatments don’t provide relief, doctors usually suggest a surgical intervention to eliminate this pressure. The majority of experts advise visiting your doctor in case OTC medications and rest don’t help you with the pain after ten days.