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by Wood D

Conditions InDepth: Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Low back pain is an ache or discomfort in the lower part of the spinal column. It may spread into one or both legs. The lower spinal column is made up of small, stacked bones (vertebrae) that surround and protect the spinal cord and nerves.
Cross-section of Vertebral Canal with Spinal Cord in the Center
IMAGE
Copyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
There are many possible causes for pain, such as:
  • Sprain or strain of muscles or ligaments
  • Herniated disc or ruptured disc—the cushions between the bones of the spine bulge out of place due to aging or trauma.
  • Disc degeneration—caused by arthritis or aging
  • Scoliosis
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis —bony narrowing of the spinal canal in the low back
  • Spondylolysis —fracture of part of the bone in the back
  • Spondylolisthesis —slipping of one bone over another, causing stretching or pinching of nerves
  • Fractures due to trauma or osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia —a health problem that causes muscle aches and fatigue
  • Ankylosing spondylitis —a disorder that causes spine stiffness and arthritis
  • Rarely, it may be due to:
    • Cancerous or non-cancerous tumors
    • Infections
    • Problems with arteries, such as hardening of the arteries
Lumbar Disc Herniation With Pinching of Spinal Nerve
IMAGE
Copyright © 2002 Nucleus Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sciatica is irritation of the sciatic nerve. It leads to pain that starts in the lower back and spreads to the buttocks and down the back of each thigh. The sciatic nerve is made up of many nerve roots that start from the lower part of the spinal cord. These nerves form a network that lead to individual nerves. These nerve bundles travel deep in the pelvis to the lower buttocks. From there, the nerve passes along the back of each upper leg and divide at the knee into branches that go to the feet.
Anything that causes irritation or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause this problem, such as:
  • Herniated disc (ruptured or slipped disc)
  • Disc degeneration
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Piriformis syndrome
  • Rarely, it may be due to:
    • Cancerous or non-cancerous tumors
    • Infections
Low back pain is common. Most back pain gets better with time. Some people will have pain for 3 months or longer.
What are the risk factors for low back pain and sciatica?What are the symptoms of low back pain and sciatica?How are low back pain and sciatica diagnosed?What are the treatments for low back pain and sciatica?Are there screening tests for low back pain and sciatica?How can I reduce my risk of low back pain and sciatica?What questions should I ask my doctor?Where can I get more information about low back pain and sciatica?

References

Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-low-back-pain. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-low-back-pain. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Low back pain. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/low-back-pain. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Sciatica. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12792-sciatica. Accessed May 5, 2022.
Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/sciatica. Accessed May 5, 2022.

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