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Is That Pain Really Sciatica?

Sciatica is one of the most common diagnoses of lower back, hip and leg pain.

It can be a debilitating condition that can seriously effect peoples lives.

Since sciatica is a frequent cause of radiating pain into the leg, other causes of leg pain maybe missed.

This means a diagnosis of sciatica could lead to mistreatment and a failure to get better. In this article, we’ll cover some of the conditions that can be mistaken for sciatica.

There are many syndromes that mimic sciatica.

Piriformis syndrome/ trigger points:

The piriformis muscle sits in the upper middle of your buttock and aids in hip extension and rotation. A trigger point in this muscle can cause local pain and referral.

It is also near the sciatic nerve, so when the muscle is injured, it can irritate the nerve, leading to leg pain.

Muscle injuries or overuse throughout the leg can also cause trigger points and local pain and referral can be misdiagnosed as sciatica.

Hip Bursitis

Bursa is a fluid-filled sac that allows two body parts to slip smoothly over one another.

In your hip a tendon passes over the outside of the upper thigh bone and a bursa rests between them to prevent friction.

The tendon moves across the bursa and hip with every leg movement; if the bursa gets inflamed, this motion can cause pain.

Bursitis can cause pain to radiate throughout the pelvis, the lower back, buttocks and groin.

Lumbar facet syndrome

Lumbar facet syndrome or lumbar joint osteoarthritis may occur when there is poor joint movement or injury to the lower back.

It commonly causes local pain or tenderness and stiffness of the spine. These joints can also cause referred pain into the flank, hip and thigh.

It is possible that lower joint injury may even refer into the leg and foot.

Sacroiliitis or sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

This means too much or too little motion in the sacroiliac joint in your lower back and pelvis. The joint dysfunction leads to inflammation and pain.

The pain is usually either side to the sacrum (possibly one sided), in the buttock and may refer to the front of the pelvis.

Again, it might feel like sciatica, but the cause and treatment of sacroiliac joint pain is different.

So How do I know which is which?

Seeing an expert in spine-related disorders is a good first step in getting the right diagnosis. Every week at Canberra Spine Centre, we see patients with sciatica and sciatica-like conditions.

Before starting any treatment, every new patient we see experiences a thorough consultation including history, screening neurologic, orthopaedic and spinal examination and x-rays if necessary.

In this way, we know exactly what we’re dealing with before we start care.

Can chiropractic care help with these conditions?

All of the above conditions are ‘mechanical’ in origin, meaning they relate to the function of muscles, bones, tendons, etc.

Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and management of mechanical disorders of the body, so they can help with most of these types of problems.

Sometimes, when the condition is non-responsive to conservative care, the chiropractor may refer to another practitioner for further investigation or treatment.

Chiropractors use gentle spinal manipulation and soft tissue techniques to help restore proper motion to the spine, thus restoring proper nerve function.

When the nerves are no longer irritated, the body functions better and problems tend to resolve.

At Canberra Spine Centre, we help people with back and leg pain every day to recover normal function and to feel great again.

If you have sciatica or something that feels like sciatica and you’re not sure what to do about it, please call us on (02) 6257 9400.

If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website:

Also, make sure you read the other interesting articles we post on headaches this month.

Call (02) 6257 9400 or visit us at 7 Macpherson St in O’Connor.