Sciatica is a common complaint and is usually associated with pain in the lower back, buttocks and legs. But can sciatica cause groin pain?
If you’re struggling with groin pain, sciatica may not be the first thing you think of. In this article, we’ll discuss whether sciatica can cause groin pain. You’ll also learn what sciatica is, what the causes and symptoms of sciatica are, and the best treatments to resolve your pain.
Table of Contents
- What is sciatica?
- Can sciatica cause groin pain?
- What other symptoms of sciatica are there?
- What causes sciatica?
- Should I be concerned about groin pain and sciatica?
- What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
- How do you treat referred groin pain from sciatica at home?
- What medical treatments are there for sciatic groin pain?
- Treating groin pain from sciatica at Harley Street Specialist Hospital
What is sciatica?
First things first – what is sciatica? Sciatica is a condition in which your sciatic nerve, the nerve that runs from your lower back all the way to your feet, becomes inflamed and compressed . This inflammation and compression can cause pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in your back, buttocks and legs.
Usually, this only affects one side, but in some cases (known as bilateral sciatica), it can affect both sides at the same time. Sciatica is a common condition that affects around 40% of adults at some point in their life .
Symptoms of sciatica can vary from mild to severe (sometimes, sciatica is so bad you can’t walk), but in most cases, sciatica doesn’t last long and will resolve itslef within a few weeks. Sometimes, symptoms need medical treatment if they’re not resolving on their own. That’s where Harley Street Specialist Hospital can help – our team of expert doctors, radiographers, and physiotherapists can help identify the cause of your sciatica and the best treatment to resolve it.
Can sciatica cause groin pain?
The answer is yes; sciatica can cause groin pain . This makes sense based on how sciatica works – when your sciatic nerve becomes compressed, it sends signals down your leg that can appear as pain or altered sensation anywhere along the course of your sciatic nerve.
The pain from your sciatic nerve can radiate to nearby areas, such as the groin. Radiating pain (or referred pain) describes pain that travels from an injured part of your body to a different area. This happens because all your nerves are connected. Referred pain from your sciatic nerve may make it appear as if your groin is the affected area, but in fact, the sciatic nerve is the cause of your pain.
What other symptoms of sciatica are there?
Groin pain is one of the less common symptoms of sciatica. If your groin pain is due to sciatica, it’s likely that you’ll experience some of these other symptoms too.
- Pain down the back of your leg or into your foot – Your sciatic nerve runs down the back of your legs and into your feet. If you have sciatica, it’s very common to feel pain down the back of your leg or into your foot along the course of your sciatic nerve.
- Tingling, burning, or a dull ache– With sciatica, the nature of the pain can vary. It can tingle, burn or ache. Shooting pain in your leg can even feel like an electric shock. This is the nature of pain that comes from a nerve.
- Weakness in your leg or foot – If you find your leg feels weaker than normal or you’re tripping over one foot when you don’t normally, these can be signs of sciatica. As well as controlling sensations in your legs and feet, your sciatic nerves also help you move them. If your sciatic nerve’s not working as it should, you may struggle to move your foot or leg.
- Pain after sitting down – Long periods of sitting can flare up sciatic pain. If you find your pain is worse when you stand up after sitting for an extended period, this can be a sign of sciatica.
- Pain worsens with coughing or sneezing – Coughing or sneezing increases pressure around your spine. This can put more pressure on your sciatic nerve and flare up your pain.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying condition. There are many conditions that can cause sciatica, including:
- Herniated disc – Your vertebrae (bones in your spine) are separated by jelly-like discs that provide cushioning. A disc that moves out of place can compress your sciatic nerve and cause sciatica symptoms. Most cases of sciatica are caused by a herniated lumbar disc .
- Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of cartilage and bones in our joints. It happens as we get older and can cause sciatic pain. Inflammation from arthritic joints can put pressure on your sciatic nerve, and arthritis also increases the risk of herniated discs.
- Pregnancy – Pregnancy changes a woman’s centre of gravity and puts more pressure on the joints and muscles. These changes in the alignment of the spine can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica in pregnancy.
- Spinal stenosis – Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of your spinal canal, the space in your back where your spinal nerves pass through. This is often due to osteoarthritis and can cause sciatica. Spinal stenosis is the most common cause of lower back pain and sciatica in elderly people .
- Injuries – Muscle strains and ligament sprains in the lower back or surrounding muscles can cause sciatica. Inflammation from injuries can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Tumours, cysts or growths – These are less common causes of sciatica. Diagnostic imaging is usually required to identify them.
Should I be concerned about groin pain and sciatica?
Although it can be painful and disruptive, sciatica is generally not something to be too concerned about. The same goes for groin pain related to sciatica. Usually, sciatica will settle on its own within a few weeks.
However, if you can’t move with sudden, severe lower back pain or there are no signs your sciatica is improving with time and rest, it may be time to seek treatment. There are also some symptoms that indicate you should seek treatment immediately because they could be signs of a rare condition called Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES).
What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Cauda Equina Syndrome is a rare condition that requires immediate medical treatment in a hospital. In CES, all the nerves in your lower back suddenly become compressed, which can cause severe symptoms. If not treated promptly, some of these symptoms can be long-lasting. Symptoms of CES include:
- Pain or altered sensation down both legs
- Numbness or altered sensation in the area between your legs (‘saddle’ region)
- Sudden changes to your bladder or bowel habits
If you have any combination of these symptoms, seek medical advice immediately. A healthcare professional will be able to advise whether you need further assessment.
How do you treat referred groin pain from sciatica at home?
There are many different ways to relieve sciatic groin pain. The best way is to treat the pain at its source – the cause of the sciatica itself. Treatments include home-based methods and methods that require a visit to a medical professional.
If you’re struggling with sciatic pain right now, there are some things you can try straight away. Over-the-counter pain relief, like ibuprofen and paracetamol, can help sciatic pain and the associated groin pain that can come with it . These can sometimes provide immediate relief for sciatica pain.
You can also try heat or ice – heat relaxes the muscles in your back, and ice helps to numb pain and reduce inflammation. Both can help, but don’t use either for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Gentle movement such as walking can also help pain from sciatica. Additionally, gentle stretches, yoga for sciatica, and swimming can also be good for sciatica and can even help to reduce your symptoms. If you’re struggling to find how to sleep with sciatica, you can also try a pillow between your knees when you lie on your side, or under your knees when you lie on your back.
What medical treatments are there for sciatic groin pain?
If home-based treatments don’t resolve your sciatic groin pain, it’s best to visit a healthcare professional. Harley Street Specialist Hospital has a leading medical team that are experts in sciatica and the referred pain it can cause. What will a hospital do for sciatica pain? Here are some of the sciatica treatment options available:
Physiotherapy is usually one of the first lines of treatment for sciatica. This is because it is non-invasive, cost-effective and can sometimes resolve sciatica symptoms without the need for further treatment .
Harley Street Specialist Hospital has a team of expert private physiotherapists who can help by diagnosing and treating your sciatic pain. Physiotherapy involves targeted exercise, education, and often a hands-on treatment element such as acupuncture for sciatica, massage techniques for sciatica pain relief or manual therapy.
Although diagnostic imaging isn’t a treatment, it’s often the next step in the treatment pathway. Physiotherapists may recommend imaging to help identify the cause of your sciatic pain, or your doctor may recommend imaging before trying physiotherapy.
Harley Street Specialist Hospital has a modern and well-equipped diagnostic imaging centre. If you need an X-ray, MRI, CT scan or ultrasound scan, we can help.
Injections can help to relieve groin pain from sciatica and are much less invasive than surgery. Injections at Harley Street Specialist Hospital are performed under ultrasound guidance. This means the specialist can get a clear view of the area causing the pain and inject as accurately as possible. We offer several types of injections for back pain and sciatica, including:
- Steroid injections – Steroid injections (also known as corticosteroid injections) are injections of anti-inflammatory medicine. They can temporarily help symptoms of sciatica caused by inflammation, such as osteoarthritis or inflamed soft tissue.
- Nerve block – This is an injection of anaesthetic (numbing medication) and corticosteroid around the nerve causing pain. Although nerve blocks are also usually a temporary method of relieving pain, they can be very helpful to identify the cause of your sciatic pain. If it’s successful, more permanent solutions like radiofrequency ablation are available.
- Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) – PRP is an injection containing a concentrated sample of platelets from your blood. PRP can support the healing of injuries – if your sciatic pain is due to an injury in your lower back, it could help resolve your pain.
When other treatments don’t resolve your pain, surgery may be the best option to cure sciatica permanently. Harley Street Specialist Hospital has a team of internationally recognised spinal surgeons and neurosurgeons who can ensure you receive the best treatment possible.
The type of surgery required depends on the cause of your sciatica. Here are some types of surgery that could help to resolve your pain:
Microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive type of surgery. It is used when one of your intervertebral discs (the discs between the bones of your spine) is putting pressure on your sciatic nerve.
In a microdiscectomy, the part of the disc causing your symptoms is removed. This all takes place while you are under general anaesthetic (fully asleep).
Your facet joints are the connections between the bones of your spine. Your nerve roots pass through these joints.
Over time, your facet joints can be affected by arthritis and become misshapen (by bony growth from arthritis) or inflamed. This can put pressure on your sciatic nerve. In a facetectomy, your facet joints are trimmed or removed to relieve pressure on your sciatic nerve and resolve facet joint pain.
You have two neural foramina between each of your spinal bones. These openings are where spinal nerves leave your spine and branch out into your body. Osteoarthritis can cause these openings to narrow, putting pressure on the spinal nerves as they exit.
In a foraminotomy, the openings are surgically enlarged by removing extra bony growth. This creates enough space for your spinal nerves to exit without being compressed.
Your lamina is the roof of your spinal canal. It supports and protects the back of your spinal cord. In a laminectomy, all or part of the lamina is removed to take pressure off the spinal nerves.
Treating groin pain from sciatica at Harley Street Specialist Hospital
If you’re struggling with groin pain from sciatica, our highly-trained team can help. Harley Street Specialist Hospital has a team of experts in sciatica who can identify the cause of your pain and arrange treatment.