What Is Radiating Back Pain?

Radiating back pain may be the result of a pinched nerve.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Radiating back pain is any type of pain in the back that radiates, or spreads, to another part of the body. The most common cause of radiating back pain is a pinched nerve; this occurs when a muscle, bone, or other part of the body compresses around a nerve ending, sending pain throughout the entire area of the body connected to that nerve. One of the most common types of radiating back pain is sciatic nerve pain, in which a muscle or bone in the lower back compresses on the sciatic nerve. The pain then radiates through the lower back, buttocks, and legs.

The sciatic nerve is a long nerve that runs from the lower back to the bottom of the leg. If a muscle compresses the nerve at any point along its length, pain can be felt throughout the course of the nerve. Very commonly, a muscle in the leg might compress the nerve — especially if the person spends a significant amount of time sitting in a chair — and radiating back pain may occur. The nerve may also get pinched somewhere in the lower back or hips, sending pain down the leg. In either case, the point of compression is not always necessarily the place where pain is felt.

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Other causes of radiating back pain may have more to do with muscles compensating for the failure of another muscle. If, for example, a muscle in the lower back becomes strained or torn, other muscles in the back, legs, or even stomach may overcompensate to keep the spine supported. The original site of pain where the injury occurred may give off a sensation of radiating outward as other muscles struggle to support the spine. This may lead to subsequent muscle strains or tears, and the sufferer should allow for ample recovery time before attempting physical activity.

Other nerves within the back can cause radiating back pain. If such pain occurs, ample rest is needed, though sometimes this is not enough to solve the problem. Over-the-counter painkillers can help relieve some of the pain at least temporarily, but if the pain persists, it may be wise to consult a doctor. He or she might prescribe a stronger painkiller or anti-inflammatory medication to help relieve the cause of the pain rather than just the symptoms. Physical therapy may also be in order, especially if the nerve pain is being caused by a damaged muscle or joint.

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Discuss this Article

ysmina
Post 3

@ddljohn-- There are a lot of possible causes relating to the spine and nerves that could be causing it. It could be stenosis (narrowing of the spine), a pinched nerve or some kind of injury. It's just not possible to know without diagnostic testing.

If you're unable to get medical care right now, I would recommend rest (avoid bending or lifting anything heavy), and you can take pain relievers and apply heat to the area to relieve the symptoms for now. There are some back pain exercises too, but don't do anything until you see a doctor or you might make things worse.

burcinc
Post 2

@ddljohn-- No one can diagnose you over the net, so you need to see your doctor.

Your symptoms do match mine though and the cause of mine is a herniated disc in my back.

When a spinal disc becomes herniated, the fluid oozes out and compresses nerves around the disc. This causes back pain that radiates to the hip and legs. Sometimes the pressure on the nerve is relieved (when you rest and take muscle relaxers for example) and the pain can go away temporarily. This is also why pain travels and shows up in one leg sometimes and the other leg at other times.

Like I said though, you need to see your doctor and have an MRI done to find out what's causing your radiating back pain symptoms.

ddljohn
Post 1

I've had lower back pain for about a week now. The pain sometimes radiates down my left leg and sometimes my right leg. What might be the cause?

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