Can sciatica cause pain in the upper back?
Sciatica, or the symptoms that can arise when the sciatic nerve is irritated, can make performing normal day-to-day tasks nearly impossible. While sciatica pain and other symptoms such as numbness, tingling and muscle weakness will be experienced only in the lower back, hips, buttocks and legs and won’t radiate to the upper back area, that doesn’t mean your upper spine plays no role in your discomfort. In fact, nerve compression in the neck area could trigger muscles in the lower back to become tenser, potentially causing sciatic nerve compression.
Diagnosing and treating sciatica
The first step in finding relief from sciatica pain is being examined by a doctor who can confirm that sciatic nerve compression is the source of your symptoms. Your physician will likely review your family and medical histories, perform a physical evaluation and order an imaging test to confirm the diagnosis. Once these steps have been completed, he or she may suggest that you attempt conservative treatments for several weeks to see if your symptoms can be reduced without the need for surgery.
Some of your treatment options may include:
- Hot/cold therapy
- Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medication
- Stretching and strengthening exercises
- Lifestyle modifications, including losing weight and avoiding high-impact activities
- Corticosteroid injections
Many individuals also incorporate alternative treatments such as chiropractic care, restorative yoga and massage therapy into their treatment plan, though the clinical effectiveness of alternative treatments remains unknown.
When sciatica pain persists
Many individuals are able to relieve their symptoms enough to return to a normal, active lifestyle after several weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment. However, if your symptoms persist or intensify, you may need to consider spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive treatment for sciatica pain and other degenerative spine conditions, and we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief.