OrthoCare Express Logo | CT Orthopedic Urgent Care
Get Moving! OrthoConnecticut orthopedic blog banner
 

Pulled HamstringWhat is Sciatica?

Your hip joints, like your knee and ankle joints, are highly active joints that debilitate with age, causing you pain. More often than not, hip pain may not be related to your hips but could be traced to a pinched nerve in your lower back leading to pain going down the leg, commonly referred to as Sciatica.

Though you might experience a sharp and shooting pain in the hip for many reasons, sciatica is one of the most common. The pain which travels along the neural pathway, usually results from compression or irritation of the nerve in the spine either from spinal bone spur, herniated disk, or other soft tissues. Sciatic nerve pain, which radiates from the lower back to the hips, buttocks and all the way to your toes, can be unbearable. Hip pain can also be a referred pain from arthritis in your low back. 

Sciatic pain can sometimes be so oppressive and incapacitating that you may not feel like standing up if you're sitting, or getting out of bed. The majority of cases and episodes of sciatica do not need surgical intervention as the severe pain subsides slowly and gradually either on its own, or through other conservative measures.  

 

Understanding Sciatica 

The sciatic nerve is the longest in your body, starting from your lower back and extending behind your leg to your toes. Compression or irritation of any of the contributing lumbar nerves that form the sciatic nerve can lead to inflammation of this nerve, causing you pain that radiates all along the course of the nerve. 

Starting as a bunch of five distinct nerve roots in your lumbar spine (lower back), the sciatic nerve branches off, radiating down the back of your leg. Irritation in these nerve roots manifests itself as pain all along the nerve, usually on one side. You know that your hip pain is sciatic pain if:

  • Your leg feels weak and numb
  • There is a tingling sensation at any point along your leg
  • You experience muscular aching in your buttocks, hips, and lower back
  • You feel pain traveling down on one side of the hips, buttocks, and leg
  • There's chronic or intermittent pain in your lower back with a burning sensation

 

The pain symptoms can differ based on the specific nerve that has been compressed or inflamed. For instance, if a nerve close to your L5 vertebra is pinched, then you'll feel pain in your back all the way down to your feet and toes.


Can Sciatica Cause Hip Pain?

Pain or ache in the hip area occurs typically because of arthritis or wear and tear of the hip joint. Sciatic pain or irritation of the sciatic nerve could happen due to the nerve roots' compression originating from the lumbar spine. Since symptoms of both are more often than not similar, it is crucial to understand their difference for proper treatment.

The hip joint lies between the pelvis and the upper section of the femur or the thigh bone. This joint in the hip lies at the back of your groin and enables you to perform routine activities like walking, running, sitting, and standing. Your hip joint could weaken due to continuous wear and tear as you grow older, eventually leading to osteoarthritis.

Other hip joint conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, injury, and avascular necrosis. Sometimes you can mistake pain in your lower back which usually happens because of overstrained or overextended muscles such as sciatica. So how do you differentiate or distinguish sciatic pain from other types of hip pain?

Hip joint pain typically presents as groin pain mostly worse with activities, such as walking, running, bending, etc. Pain in the sciatic nerve, by and large, can start in your low back or outside the hip, going down to your legs or toes. If you have sciatica, you could experience excruciating leg cramps, and the spasms could remain for many weeks.

 

Sciatica Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of sciatica could vary extensively, ranging from prickly pain to a moderate ache that spreads throughout one side of your leg. You could also have a burning sensation and pain that is akin to receiving a mild electric shock. Sometimes you may have numbness in your affected leg accompanied by muscular spasms and tingling anywhere along the neural pathway. 

Often you'll feel pain in one area of your leg while numbness or a lack of sensation in another part. The pain can aggravate if you remain seated for long periods or when you sneeze or cough. The most recognizable symptom of sciatica is a sharp and shooting ache all through the sciatic nerve.

Symptoms associated with sciatica might manifest suddenly or abruptly and could trouble you for days or weeks. Sciatica is usually a symptom of an underlying condition such as a herniated disc or a bone spur. Nevertheless, you could also develop sciatic pain due to a spinal tumor, spondylolisthesis or narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis).

 

Diagnosing Sciatica

If pain in your hip or hips persists more than usual, you must get in touch with the medical staff at OrthoConnecticut. The physician will go through your medical history and inquire about the signs and symptoms you're experiencing. The healthcare provider will thoroughly evaluate your condition.

They could also ask you to lie on your back, straighten your legs, and then raise them slowly. The idea is to pinpoint where your pain starts so that they can identify the afflicted nerves and establish if one of your discs is affected. The medical professional could also subject you to several other physical tests to locate pain and check muscle strength and flexibility.

After conducting a physical exam, your doctor could prescribe you one or more diagnostic assays to confirm their assessment:

  • CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Electromyography (nerve conduction velocity studies)
  • Myelogram
  • X-rays of the spine

 

Treating Sciatica and Hip Pain

You can try several home remedies to get relief from sciatic pain, such as applying an ice pack or a heating pad. Ensure to use heat or cold for about 15-20 minutes every couple of hours. You can also take NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and OTC medications like naproxen, ibuprofen, Aleve, and aspirin, if no contraindication, for pain relief.

If your pain persists, a physician could prescribe a corticosteroid oral medication for reducing nerve root inflammation and pain. Sometimes alternative treatment methods like physical therapy, nerve medication,  activity modification, epidural injections can help relieve the pain. Surgery is often considered a last resort when conventional therapies have proved ineffective in lessening pain.

 

Conclusion

Going through the entire article will give you a fair idea about sciatica, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment modes. If you're diagnosed with sciatica, contact the professionals at OrthoConnecticut to receive the utmost care and treatment in providing you relief from acute pain and decompressing pinched sciatic nerve.