Back pain can come in different forms and intensities. It could be caused by something as simple as poor posture to more extreme situations such as a high-impact accident. As you can see not all back pain is the same. The kind of pain one feels depends on where in the back it occurs and how it was caused. Sciatica is a condition that can cause pain in the back right down to the legs. In this article we at Spinalogy Clinic, Pune focus on Sciatica and its correlation to Lumbar Herniated Discs.
To understand back pain, we first need to understand the anatomy of our backs. The back is divided into four parts. Starting from the neck, you first have the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (upper back), the lumbar spine (lower back) and the sacral spine (tail bone). Off these, the lumbar or lower back region is one of the most common areas for pain. This is because it supports our upper body weight.
We also have what is called the vertebral column. This is a series of approximately 33 bones that pass through the back. This column is what helps us move and gives our body structure. The bones in the vertebral column are separated by shock-absorbing discs. Each of these invertebral discs is made up of a hard outer layer and a soft inner portion.
When a disc slips it does not move out of place. What actually happens is that the soft inner portion of the disc leaks out. Since the spinal cord is extremely narrow, this leak puts pressure on the surrounding nerves causing pain.
So as you can see a Lumbar Herniated Disc is a slipped disc in the lower back region.
Sciatica is a type of nerve pain that can be caused due to a lumbar herniated disc. It is the pain felt when the sciatic nerve is compressed. The sciatic nerve begins as a bundle of nerve fibers in the lumbar region. These nerve fibers eventually join together to form the Sciatic nerves (the largest nerve in our body). A lumbar herniated disc can put pressure on these nerve fibers causing Sciatica.
Sciatic pain can be described as radiating, stabbing or tingling. The pain usually occurs on one side of the body at a time though it can occur on both sides as well. Simple daily activities such as walking and standing can be hampered. Patients also feel numbness and the sensation of pins and needles that can hamper ones reflexes.
To understand if your Sciatica is indeed aggravated by a lumbar herniated disc your doctor will assess your body movements. For example s/he may ask you to lift your leg while lying down. Depending on the pain you describe, the doctor will make a diagnosis. To further confirm this, a series of diagnostic tests may be conducted. X-rays cannot show disc herniation but can be used to eliminate other possibilities. There are also certain tests that are used to understand the current functioning of the nerves. All these together help understand if a lumbar herniated disc has caused Sciatica.
While Sciatica from a herniated lumbar disc can be extremely painful, the good news is that with proper treatment patients will start feeling a difference in a matter of weeks and in a few months should be free of all symptoms.
Non-surgical treatment could involve physical therapy, some pain-relieving medication and epidural injections.
While you must consult a doctor if you suspect you have Sciatica due to a lumbar herniated disc, you might get some pain relief by doing low-impact aerobic exercises such as taking a walk and applying heat to your lower back. Once again these should be attempted only in consultation with a doctor.
At the Spinalogy Clinic, Pune we specialize in the non-surgical treatment of Sciatica and lumbar herniated discs. Come by for a consultation.