Sciatica Symptoms Including Back Pain and Leg Cramps
Patients sometimes come in for a first consultation complaining of lower back pain and leg cramping and other sciatica symptoms. They’re looking for relief, but they also want to know what’s causing their condition. The answer isn’t always obvious, as muscle cramping or spasms in the leg can be caused by a variety of conditions.
Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is one potential cause of leg cramps and sciatica-like symptoms. PAD is characterized by the buildup of plaque on the artery walls, creating a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in the legs. This in turn restricts the amount of oxygen nourishing the leg muscles, which creates cramping and aching.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, is characterized by the formation of blood clots in the deep or large veins in the body, and the legs are the most common location for DVT. Sitting for long periods of time and blood clotting disorders can cause DVT. This is a life-threatening condition. If the clot breaks free, it can clog a smaller vessel, resulting in a pulmonary embolism or stroke.
Aches and pains in the legs can also result from problems in the back. Sciatica, for example, is the name given to pain in the lower back and hip that radiates down into the leg, and feels like a bad, painful cramp. Weakness or a burning sensation in the leg are other hallmarks of sciatica. Sciatica is caused by pressure in the spinal column, typically caused by a herniated disc, impinging on the roots of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is not a condition itself, but the symptoms of a condition, and a large variety of spinal conditions in the lower back, such as lumbar spinal stenosis and lumbar disc degeneration, can cause sciatica. In younger adults, lumbar herniated disc is the most common cause of sciatica.
Sciatica can be mitigated with physical therapy, exercises, medication, epidural injections, and other non-invasive methods. When these therapies prove unsuccessful, surgery can provide relief. The last few years have witnessed remarkable advances in minimally invasive back surgery treatments for conditions that can cause sciatica. Make sure you find out all your treatment options, whatever your condition and symptoms.