Tag Archives: Back Health

Back Pain: The Symptoms And Causes Of Sciatica

Most sciatica is caused by problems that affect the L4L5, or S1 nerve roots. The nerve may be compressed or irritated, usually because it’s being rubbed by a disc, bone, joint, or ligament. The resulting inflammation makes the tis­sues and the nerves more sensitive and the pain feel worse.

Damage to or pinching of the sciatic nerve, or the nerves that feed into it, can have several causes.

Herniated disc

One of the most common causes of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower part of the spine. It’s also called a slipped disc, though there’s no slipping going on.

Spinal discs are tucked between the vertebrae, where they act as cushions to keep the bones from touching one another. The discs absorb all the forces placed on the spine from walking, running, sitting, twisting, lifting, and every other activ­ity we do. They also absorb forces from falls, collisions, and other accidents.

Spinal stenosis

The spinal canal protects the spinal cord and the nerves that run up and down the spine. Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal. When this occurs, nerves can be compressed, causing pain. Because the lumbar verte­brae undergo the most consistent stress and support the most weight, lumbar stenosis is the most common type of spinal stenosis.

Spondylolisthesis

The bones of the spine are stacked on top of one another, separated by discs. Spondylolisthesis occurs when one spinal bone slips forward in relation to the bone below it. When the L4 vertebra moves over the L5 vertebra, it can cause a kink in the spinal canal leading to pressure on a nerve root and sciatica.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #57: SCOLIOSIS

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine most commonly starting in childhood or adolescence. The cause can be a muscle imbalance from cerebral palsy or other muscle problems, a birth defect,  an injury, or sometimes there is scoliosis that runs in the family and is hereditary. Occasionally it is caused by a difference in the length of the two legs.

The curvature is sometimes accompanied by a rotation of the spine, and will produce an asymmetry of the back. Perhaps one shoulder blade is higher than the other or one shoulder is lower than the other. Differences in the leg length can be seen by differences in height of the pelvis.

The problem can be silent, if mild. However it can affect the way the child walks, or even interfere with breathing if severe. If untreated and progressive, it can cause chronic back pain in adulthood. Treatment is accomplished by braces, or occasionally by screws placed in the side of the vertebra that can be adjusted.

I had a friend that was 70 years old whose back pain eventually forced surgery. Scoliosis should definitely be supervised by a Doctor who will use physical therapy, braces, or some other conservative treatment to avoid later difficulties.

Please refer to the Mayo clinic article for more information.

—Dr. C.

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