Low back pain is probably the most common complaint that chiropractors and other health professionals deal with from clients on a day to day basis and when most people with low back pain present to the clinic quite often they self-diagnose their pain as ‘sciatica’ or that they have a ‘pinched nerve’.
However following a through clinical examination it is quite clear 95% of the time that patients don’t actually have sciatica, in fact most low back pain is caused by an inflamed muscle, ligament or joint in the lower spine. Sciatica on the other hand is a compression or impingement of the nerve roots of the sciatic nerve when it leaves the spinal column, usually by a protruding or damaged intervertebral disc.
So then, how do you spot the difference between simple low back pain compared to low back pain caused by sciatica? There are a few notable signs and symptoms that are only present with sciatica, so we have identified a few tips that provide tell tail signs of ‘true’ sciatica;
- Constant & Relentless Pain: True sciatica is much more painful than simple low back pain due to the constant prolonged nature of the pain where it seems nothing you try works in relieving the pain. Patients with sciatica are often left very tired and cranky as they are not able to sleep due to the relenting nature of the pain. Usually when the pain reaches this level of intensity, decompressive surgery is quite often the only option.
- Both Numbness and Weakness of One Leg: When the sciatic nerve is compressed you will experience both numbness and weakness in the muscles of the affected leg, this will then make jumping or standing on your toes nearly impossible. If you have a localised muscle strain and an inflamed joint in your back, it might hurt jumping or standing on your toes but you still have the strength to do so.
- Bowel and Bladder weakens: With a bad enough entrapment of the sciatic nerve you can experience changes in your bowel and bladder function in the form of urinary incontinence (bladder leakage) or changes in bowel movements. Bowel and bladder changes aren’t always present with sciatica, however if you have suddenly developed these symptoms and it coincides with your back/leg pain then it is a medical emergency.
I hope this article has been informative, stay tuned for more upcoming blogs at www.backtohealthclinic.com.au.
Yours in Good Health,
Back to Health Clinic Team