You’re hesitant to move around much thanks to pain that develops in certain positions — and the pain is widespread, traveling from your lower back and down into one of your legs. This is the hallmark of a condition called sciatica, which involves the largest nerve in your body that, you guessed it, starts in your lower back and reaches down into your legs.
The team here at Texas Spine Consultants, which includes Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, has extensive experience with this condition and we want to provide you with some preliminary information.
Here’s a look at the connection between your lower back pain and your leg pain, and what we can do to help you find relief.
Your sciatic nerve
To understand why you’re experiencing pain in both your back and in your leg, we need to take a quick look at some anatomy; more specifically, your peripheral nervous system (PNS). At the heart of your PNS are 31 pairs of spinal nerves and nerve roots that branch out along the length of your spine, from your neck to your lower back.
These spinal nerves and nerve roots are the beginning points for the hundreds of nerves that travel throughout your body (except your head, which feature cranial nerves), providing you with sensation.
As we mentioned, your sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and it’s formed by the coming together of five nerve roots in your lumbar spine, or lower back. Your sciatic nerve branches out from your lower back and travels down each side of your buttocks and down both of your legs to your feet.
When your sciatic nerve is compromised in your lower back (where the foundational nerve roots are located), your symptoms can follow the path of this nerve, causing both lower back pain and pain that radiates down one side of your buttocks and into your leg, sometimes going as far as your feet.
While we’re focusing on pain, other symptoms can develop due to sciatica, such as numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
The leading cause of sciatica is a herniated disc. The discs along your spine are located in between your vertebrae and provide cushioning and support. If your discs succumb to degenerative disc disease, which often comes with wear-and-tear and aging, they become more brittle and prone to rupture.
When this happens, a portion of your disc can escape its intervertebral space and irritate the nerves in the area, including your sciatic nerve.
If you’re experiencing lower back and leg pain, we urge you to come see us so that we can figure out whether a herniated disc is responsible or if there’s another problem. Once we identify the source of your discomfort, we offer several treatment options that will help you find much-needed relief (we can determine those when you’re here).
To get started, contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.