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What Is the Connection Between a Herniated Disk and Sciatica?

Tissue irritation is most common when damage has been done in the lower back.
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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2014
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In some patients with a herniated disk, one of the symptoms they may experience is sciatica, where pain, tingling, or numbness travel down one or both legs. The connection between a herniated disk and sciatica has to do with the irritation and pressure that the disk causes to nearby tissues, particularly the nerves leading to the sciatic nerve. It is most common when damage has occurred in the disks between the vertebrae in the lower part of the back. The pain may come and go, depending on the patient's activities and the time of day.

When one has a herniated disk and sciatica, it is typically because the damaged or bulging disk is putting pressure on one or more of the nerve roots leading from the spine to the sciatic nerve. The injured disk may bulge in an abnormal manner so it is pushing against the spinal nerves, pinching or irritating them. This can in turn lead to pain which radiates down the spinal nerves to the sciatic nerve, which runs down the buttocks into the back of the legs. Depending on the location and severity of the disk damage, sciatica may travel only part of or all of the way down from the lower back to the foot, may affect one or both legs, and can also include weakness, numbness, or an ongoing pins and needles sensation.

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Herniated disk and sciatica are most commonly experienced when the disk that has been damaged resides in the lower part of the spine. This can also impact where the sciatic pain is felt and how far it travels down the leg or legs. Damage to the disk between the bottom lumbar vertebrae and the top of the sacrum, or the L5-S1 disk, is a common cause of the problem. Herniation of the L4-L5 disk, which is between the bottom two lumbar vertebrae, can also lead to sciatica.

Though a herniated disk and sciatica is often quite painful, patients may notice that the pain is not always present. Certain movements such as bending, sitting for periods of time, or lifting may trigger irritation of the nerves by the damaged disk. Lying down, especially on one's side, may help relieve the pain for periods of time. Patients may notice their sciatica causes less discomfort in the mornings, after lying down all night, and gets progressively worse during the day as they move around and put additional stress on their backs.

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Bertie68
Post 5

@sweetPeas - Often sciatica nerve pain is caused by a disc at the lower back, bulging and pressing on the nerve root, which causes irritation of the nerves running down to the sciatica and sometimes continuing on down one or both legs.

A friend has had chronic problems with bulging discs, which become painful, and pain in the sciatica and down the legs. She is looking into a surgery that is minimally invasive and also uses a laser.

In this out patient surgery, a tube is inserted and the part of the disc that is causing trouble is removed and the diseased tissue is cleaned out with a laser. Her doctor said that patients usually feel better very soon. Recovery, with physical therapy is fairly quick. This is an out patient procedure. It might be worth looking into.

sweetPeas
Post 4

Does anyone know about any surgeries that repair a herniated disc and sciatica pain? I have had problems with a bulging disc in my lower back. I've experienced pain in my back and sometimes sciatica pain and leg pain. My leg feels numb and tingly.

The last episode started when I bent over to pick something off the floor. I've had the bulging disc and pain and numbness in my sciatica for a long time. It keeps on happening over and over again and is interfering with my life. I've had lots of physical therapy, but it doesn't seem to help. Any ideas for herniated disk treatment and sciatica treatment?

popcorn
Post 3

@lonelygod - It does sound like you may be in need of sciatica nerve treatment, or perhaps herniated disk treatment. When the pain travels from your back into your leg like you describe, it definitely sounds like some sort of nerve issue.

I think you should get a second opinion from another doctor. Sometimes doctors get too busy and don't properly diagnosis things, which can be a big problem.

You may actually need physical therapy to find some herniated disk exercises or sciatica exercises, depending on your actual diagnosis. I went through physical therapy myself and you would be surprised at how much it helps get rid of the pain. You just have to really stick with it though.

lonelygod
Post 2

I've had terrible lower back pain since I was thrown off a horse a few years back. While the pain isn't always present when it does flare up I am basically bedridden.

Does anyone know how to find out if your leg pain is related to a herniated disk in your back or sciatica?

My local doctor just told me I probably pulled a muscle and sent me on my way. I am worried though as the pain is recurring and I now get sharp pains down my right leg. Sometimes I can barely stand up it is so excruciating.

anon153658
Post 1

Can a bulging/herniated disc put pressure on the bladder causing frequency?

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