A strong lower back assists in performing physical activities properly. It gives the body the strength and support to perform daily tasks such as lifting and standing. However, narrowing of the spinal canal and traumatic physical injuries can impact the lower back. It might eventually affect the legs and feet, as well.
Although it is normal to experience lower back pain as we age, it can be caused by more severe conditions, as well. Read on to figure out if your back pain is caused by spinal stenosis or sciatica – two common back pain conditions – and how they are related.
Spinal Stenosis: Symptoms and Causes
Spinal stenosis is often caused by aging or wear and tear of the spine. The wear and tear of aging can cause the spinal canal to narrow, which can place pressure on the nerves in your spine. Spinal stenosis commonly happens in the lower back and neck.
Spinal stenosis usually affects older adults. However, herniated discs, the formation of bone spurs, thickened ligaments, and tumors can also cause this condition.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis include irritation, tenderness, and pain in the affected area. Furthermore, the effects of nerve compression can run from the lower back to the legs and feet. You might also feel pain when standing or walking for an extended period. In severe cases, affected individuals can experience loss of bowel and bladder control.
Sciatica: Symptoms and Causes
Sciatica refers to pain that starts from the sciatic nerve, stretching from the lower back to the hip and leg. The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that branches into two parts in the lower back and extends from the buttocks to the feet. It is the main reason why lower back pain can reach different parts of the body.
Sciatica usually happens to people with herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and bone spurs. In some rare cases, the compression can be caused by tumors or other diseases, such as diabetes. The pain can occur gradually or suddenly, depending on the cause.
Risk factors for nerve compression include:
- Having a job that requires heavy lifting
- An inactive lifestyle
- Being overweight
- Being above a certain age
For pregnant women, sciatica pain can also occur because of hormonal changes that loosen their ligaments. They might experience moderate to extreme pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs.
The Connection Between Spinal Stenosis and Sciatica
Spinal stenosis and sciatica are both health conditions in the spinal column, nerves, and vertebrae. The narrowing of the space in the spinal canal can eventually put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Thus, spinal stenosis causes numbness, stiffness, and irritation from the lumbar spine down to the legs and feet.
Although sciatica is a symptom of spinal stenosis, not every patient with spinal stenosis suffers from sciatica. Furthermore, sciatica affects the lower region of the body only, while spinal stenosis can also affect the arms.
If you experience extreme lower back pain that extends to your leg, it can be a sign of sciatica that might be caused by spinal stenosis or a spinal injury.
Orthopedic Spine Clinic in Michigan
Spinal stenosis and sciatica can cause extreme lower back, pelvic area, and leg pain. These issues can hamper your daily tasks, diminishing your quality of life. Although the stiffness and aching can sometimes be manageable, there’s no reason to suffer from a painful spinal illness when our skilled specialists can help relieve the pain.
At Ahlgren Spine, our team will help you identify the cause of your back pain to restore your mobility and functionality. We are devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of various spine injuries and conditions. We look forward to providing personalized orthopedic services that can improve your quality of life. To arrange an appointment, you can fill out our secure online appointment request form or call us at (248) 215-8080.