sciatica & sciatic nerve pain in leg and foot

If you have sciatica, then you know that it can cause pain in your lower back that radiates down one leg. You may be wondering, though, can sciatica cause foot pain and swelling?

What is the Sciatic Nerve and What is Sciatic Nerve Pain?

Nerves carry messages from your brain to the rest of your body and back again. These messages travel as impulses along the nerve roots of the spinal cord, which sits inside the hollow part of the spinal column. Any amount of pressure or damage to these nerve roots can cause them to send messages of pain or other symptoms to your brain.

Nerve roots exit the spinal column through tiny holes or passageways in the vertebrae, which are the individual bones that make up the spinal column. After exiting the spine, the nerve roots can combine to create nerves. Each nerve root carries messages about a specific part of the body.

Five nerve roots combine to create the sciatic nerve; they exit the spinal cord through a passageway in your lower back, near your pelvis. These nerve roots, which are L4, L5, S1, S2, and S3, come together deep within the buttock to create the large, thick sciatic nerve. Each of these nerve roots serves a different area of the legs.

Damage to these specific nerve roots affects different areas of the legs, too. Damage or pressure to the S1 nerve root affects the hips and groin area, for example, while pressure or damage to the S2 affects the back of the thighs. The L5 nerve serves the foot, so any pressure or damage to the L5 nerve can cause sciatica foot pain. In other words, sciatica can cause foot pain.

Can sciatica cause swollen feet?

Yes! If the pressure against the nerve continues for a long time, the protective barrier around the nerve can break down. Fluid may build up in areas served by the compressed nerve, and the accumulation of fluid associated with sciatica may cause foot swelling.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Symptoms of sciatica can vary from person to person. These symptoms include:

  • Moderate to severe pain in your lower back, buttock, and down one leg
  • Numbness or weakness in your lower back and down one buttock, leg, or foot
  • Pain that worsens when you move
  • Loss of movement
  • “Pins and needles” sensation in your legs, feet, or toes
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Causes of Sciatic Pain

Sciatica, or sciatic pain, can occur when something pinches your sciatic nerve. One of the most common causes is a herniated disc, which is a spine problem when one of the rubbery discs that cushion the vertebrae bulges out of position. The herniated disc can put pressure on the sciatic nerve to cause symptoms, such as pain. An overgrowth of bone, known as a bone spur, is also a common cause of sciatic pain. Other conditions, such as a tumor or damage caused by diabetes, can cause sciatic pain.

Sciatica Treatment Options

Conservative, non-surgical treatment is usually enough to treat sciatica. The condition responds well to a combination of treatments, such as:

  • Modifying activities
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Epidural injections
  • Stretching techniques and low-impact exercises
  • Physical therapy

For more information about sciatica and its potential to cause foot pain, contact a foot and ankle specialist or orthopedist. Addressing your sciatica today can help you get relief from your foot pain and swelling tomorrow.

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