Life is too busy to be held back by hip pain. Often, when you experience hip and back pain, the cause is a pinched nerve also known as sciatica. As many as 4 out of 10 people will suffer from sciatica at some point in their life.
Pain in the hips and glutes caused by sciatica can be very debilitating, leading to the loss of sleep, mobility, the inability to work, and the loss of enjoyment in life. However, recognizing sciatica symptoms in your hips, understanding the underlying cause and learning what treatment options are available to you can have you back on your feet in no time.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a specific source of pain caused by inflammation around the sciatic nerve. It is a symptom, not a condition. The sciatic nerves are the largest in the body and are about the size of your pinky finger. They originate in the lowest part of your spinal canal, just at the top of the gluteal muscle in the L4 and L5 vertebrae. The nerves come out of the spinal column into the low back and pass behind your hip joint and down your glutes before heading down the back of your legs to your ankles and feet. When the sciatica nerves are pinched, it causes pain in the lower back, glutes and hips.
What are the symptoms?
Sciatic nerve pain is characterized by pain that starts in the lower back and radiates to the buttocks and to the front or side of the hip. It usually only affects one side of the lower body. In some cases, it may even extend to the leg or foot.
Sciatica symptoms in the hip are:
- A sharp pain in the hip, groin, or thigh area
- A dull pain through the hips or buttocks
- Tingling or numbness that starts in the hip and runs down the leg
- Loss of movement or a feeling of weakness in the hip or leg
- Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
Often, movement will increase the severity of sciatica pain as the nerve becomes further irritated
Common Causes of Sciatica
There are many reasons you may develop sciatica depending on your individual habits and body type. Understanding the underlying causes of your pain can help with pain relief and prevention.
Common situations that lead to sciatica include:
- Repetitive activities that cause stress on the hips or back like walking, standing, or sitting for long periods of time.
- Injuries from sports, car accidents or falls that cause the muscles and joints to go out of alignment.
- Certain sleeping positions can put stress on the hips and back.
- Exercising without stretching can cause tightness in the hip flexors that leads to pinched nerves.
- A ruptured or herniated disc in the spinal cord.
- Compression of the piriformis muscle called piriformis syndrome.
In many cases, a doctor can diagnose sciatica pain with a routine exam in the area of your pain. In some cases, however, you will need imaging tests to tell you the cause of the nerve irritation. Your doctor may use an x-ray, CT or CAT scan, or an MRI to determine if you may have a herniated disc or spinal stenosis that’s causing your sciatica.
Common Sciatica Treatments
Relief is available for the hip, buttocks and leg pain associated with sciatica. Anti inflammatory drugs are used to treat the pain and inflammation. Although sciatica often makes movement painful, bed rest is not an effective treatment for the pain. A physical therapist can show you what types of movement to avoid, and what can help treat sciatica pain.
Medications used to treat sciatica include:
- Over the counter pain relievers include acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen and ease discomfort and help reduce the inflammation that causes pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Prescription muscle relaxants can be used to ease muscle spasms.
- Prescription pain medications may be given to you by your doctor to treat more severe pain.
Physical therapy exercises that may help:
- Strengthening exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons which are often the root of sciatic pain.
- Stretching exercises are recommended to alleviate pain.
Back hip and leg pain from sciatica can affect your quality of life, but with proper treatment, it will not lead to permanent nerve damage. Understanding the underlying cause of your sciatica symptoms will not only help you find relief from pain, but prevent inflammation in the future helping you to live pain free.
Don’t Wait to Get Help
If you experience sciatica symptoms in your hips, buttocks or legs, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. At Arizona Pain and Spine, our highly-trained and experienced pain specialists can provide safe and effective pain relief solutions for sciatica symptoms.
Call us at 480-986-7246 or use our online scheduler to make an appointment. Say goodbye to your hip and back pain!