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Low Back Pain and Sciatica Overview


#Low Back Pain

Low back pain is an ache or discomfort in the area of the lower part of the spinal column that may radiate down into one or both legs. The lower spinal column consists of small, stacked bones (the vertebrae) that surround and protect the spinal cord and nerves.

![Cross-section of Vertebral Canal with Spinal Cord in the Center][1]

There are many possible causes for low back pain, including:

  • Sprain or strain of muscles or ligaments in the area
  • Herniated disc or ruptured disc—the cushions between the bones of the spine bulge out of place as a result of age-related changes or trauma.
  • Disc degeneration—caused by arthritis or by the wear and tear of living plus aging
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis —bony narrowing of the spinal canal in the low back area
  • Spondylolisthesis —slippage of one bone over another, causing stretching or pinching of nerves
  • Fractures due to trauma or osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia —a condition that causes muscle aches and fatigue
  • Ankylosing spondylitis —a disorder that causes spine stiffness and arthritis (believed to be hereditary)
  • In rare cases,
  • Benign or malignant tumors
  • Infections
  • Arterial problems, such as hardening of the arteries

![Lumbar Disc Herniation With Pinching of Spinal Nerve][10]

#What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is irritation of the sciatic nerve, which passes from the spinal cord to the buttocks down the back of each thigh. The sciatic nerve is composed of several nerve roots that arise from the lower spine on each side of the spinal column. These nerve bundles travel deep in the pelvis to the lower buttocks. From there, the nerve passes along the back of each upper leg and divides at the knee into branches that go to the feet.

Sciatica typically causes pain that shoots down the back of one thigh or buttock. Anything that causes irritation or puts pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause sciatica, including:

  • Herniated disc (ruptured or slipped disc)
  • Disc degeneration
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • In rare cases:
  • Benign or malignant tumors
  • Infections

Low back pain is very common, it is estimated that over the course of a lifetime 80% of Americans will suffer from at least one episode of back pain. Every year, about 15%-20% of the adults in the United States will report back pain. Most back pain gets better with time; about 5% to 10% of patients will continue to have pain for longer than three months.

What are the risk factors for low back pain and sciatica?

What are the symptoms of low back pain and sciatica?

How are low back pain and sciatica diagnosed?

What are the treatments for low back pain and sciatica?

Are there screening tests for low back pain and sciatica?

How can I reduce my risk of low back pain and sciatica?

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Where can I get more information about low back pain and sciatica?

[1]: image/324 "Cross-section of Vertebral Canal with Spinal Cord in the Center" center [10]: image/164 "Herniated Lumbar Disk" center



Conn's Current Therapy 2001. 53rd edition. W.B. Saunders Company; 2001.

Pain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: . Accessed October 27, 2008.

Textbook of Primary Care Medicine. 3rd edition. Mosby, Inc.; 2001.

I have had severe back pain for years and am taking a supplement called Pro-Flex which with exercise on a stationary bicycle for 45 minutes daily seems to give about 50% relief. I am not sure whether it is the supplement or exercise which is helping.

7 years ago