Radiating pain from the lower back can be the result of irritation of any of the structures that make up the back with or without actual lower back pain. There are three major categories of back pain. In this article, the third of a three-part series, we discuss some common causes for radiating pain from the lower back.
Radiating pain from the lower back commonly travels through the nerves that emanate from the spinal cord. These nerves can be compromised or pinched as they exit the spine at various levels. At times, but rarely, the nerve may be aggravated before it enters the exit pathway of the spine called the intervertebral foramen. This is common to a geriatric condition called spinal stenosis and also common in the 20-40 year age group as a result of disc herniation.
Patients frequently experience pain, weakness, tingling and numbness as a result. Symptoms affect different areas in their legs, groin and pelvic regions depending on the level of the nerve entrapment.
If the affected nerves are located in the upper part of the lower spine, symptoms will classically appear in the groin, buttock or front thigh area. If located in the lowest parts of the spine, classic symptoms run down the back of the leg, calf or feet.
LOWER BACK PAIN DUE TO MYOFASCIAL PAIN SYNDROMES
However, the nerve is not always the culprit. There is a common, little recognized and poorly understood condition called myofascial pain syndromes. Here the symptoms originate from overstimulated, often irritated tissue that envelopes muscles. Failure to recognize this condition often results in inappropriate treatment. A knowledgeable, well trained provider can recognize and manage these conditions.
Other common reasons for radiating pain disc include herniation, arthritis, spinal and pelvic misalignment, spondylolisthesis, lumbar facet syndrome and disc degeneration. Furthermore, a condition commonly referred to as sciatica or sciatic neuritis sciatic is due to pinching of the sciatic nerve.
Most important, symptoms that include severe loss of muscle strength (foot drop) or difficulty with bladder or bowel control are medical emergencies and should be addressed immediately.
TRY CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT FOR RADIATING PAIN FROM THE LOWER BACK
Typically, there is no rush in radical intervention type therapies (surgery). Even in the worst case, loss of strength can be effectively regained if symptoms are brought under control within 6-9 months. Because of this, I recommend starting with the most conservative treatment, including a course of spinal manipulation in conjunction with core stabilizing exercises.
Chiropractic physicians are the premier health care providers at diagnosing lower back pain. They are well-trained in identifying the location of the cause so that the appropriate treatment can be given. Acupuncture can also be an effective treatment for myofascial pain syndromes and is an excellent choice for managing pain and arthritis.
Medical physician Jason Gruss, MD. FAAPM&R, specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation and is trained in the non-surgical treatment and management of lower back pain. In addition to conventional medical care, Dr. Gruss often directs both chiropractic and acupuncture care.
Since 1981, First Health Associates has been providing exceptional health care to residents of Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, Schaumburg, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Elk Grove and Des Plaines. First Health is an integrative medicine practice that offers: Medical Care; Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine; Counseling and Behavioral Therapy; and Chiropractic Care.
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