We all know sciatica is a common cause of low back pain. But did you also know that sciatica can cause knee pain? Sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hips to your feet. And since the sciatic nerve passes through both the buttocks and thighs, sciatica can cause back pain and knee pain. In this blog post, we’ll explore some ways that sciatica could be causing persistent knee pain and what you should do to feel better!
How does sciatica of the knee happen?
Knee sciatica can have several causes. Prolapsed discs are common culprits for sciatica in the knee. There is a possibility that the material that makes up the vertebral disc can leak out, resulting in pain that can extend down as far as the knee.
Infection, bone disease, spinal stenosis, malignancy, and trauma are just some of the additional causes of sciatica.
Sciatica is characterized by body pain originating in the lumbar spine (lower back) and spreading to areas along the sciatic nerve path, such as the knee. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may also experience pain in your buttocks, back of your thigh, calves, and feet.
It is essential to consult a professional as soon as you are experiencing symptoms of sciatica of the knee. Several tests might be necessary, including X-rays and MRIs or CT scans.
Does Sciatica Cause Knee Pain?
Knee pain that is not attributed to an injury may be caused by a lower back problem. Your lower spine supplies nerves that power the muscles around your knees.
Symptoms, including knee weakness, are caused by irritation or compression of these nerves. Knee pain is often accompanied by symptoms in your buttocks, thighs, calves, or feet.
Sciatica typically affects only one leg at a time, so knee pain in the sciatica usually does not affect both knees simultaneously. The pain usually occurs on the same leg, but it may also affect both.
When the sciatic nerve is damaged or compressed, it causes severe pain, pins-and-needles, leg pain, and sometimes numbness.
The sciatic nerve extends from your toes up to your lower back. Since this critical nerve travels through the back of the knee and controls the muscles in that area, problems occurring in that nerve often cause knee pain.
Can Sciatica Cause My Leg and/or Ankle to Swell?
Inflammation of the affected leg can occur if a herniated lumbar disc, spinal stenosis, or bone spurs compresses the sciatic nerve. Swelling in the legs is also a symptom of piriformis syndrome complications.
Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region, spasms and causes pain in the buttocks. Muscle irritation in the piriformis can also affect the nearby sciatic nerve, causing pain, tingling, and numbness along the back of the foot and into the leg (similar to sciatica pain).
Where Is the Sciatic Nerve in the Knee?
The sciatic nerve is located between the pelvis and the foot. This nerve is also the largest nerve in the body. Sciatica of the knee occurs when the nerve becomes damaged and causes pain in the knee area. There are two types of sciatica of the knee: acute (less than six weeks) and chronic (more than six weeks).
You only have one nerve that passes through your knee that is at risk of compression. It’s the peroneal nerve, a branch of the sciatic nerve.
As the knee moves back and forth, the peroneal nerve travels along with these muscles. Occasionally, a peroneal nerve can be compressed or stuck alongside any of these muscles. When these muscles are stuck, it can cause inflammation or injury and, consequently, pain outside the knee.
What Can Cause Sciatica in the Knee?
The lower leg and foot top are supplied with sensation and movement via the peroneal nerve. Whenever it’s compressed, it becomes inflamed, leading to the symptoms of sciatica.
As it is located between the bone and skin, the peroneal nerve is vulnerable to compression. Putting any pressure on the outside of your knee can increase your risk of developing sciatica and eventually knee pain.
Traumatic injuries are one of the risk factors of sciatic pain. Often, the nerve in your knee will experience pressure due to the impact of the trauma. People who recently had an accident in their knees, legs, and thighs are prone to sciatica.
Other risk factors that can cause sciatic pain include:
The Habit Of Crossing Legs
Sciatica in the knee is most commonly caused by compression of the opposite knee while crossing the legs. Knee problems may also result from prolonged squatting.
Bone Fractures Or Knee Injury.
Entrapment of a nerve can result from a fracture of a large bone in your lower leg (fibula) or sometimes of a small bone (tibia) around your knee.
A ligament injury can result in bleeding or inflammation in the peroneal nerve.
Some abdominal and gynecologic surgeries use equipment to keep your legs rotated outward while your knees are flexed, which can cause nerve compression.
Nerves can also be accidentally pinched during knee replacement surgery or arthroscopic procedures.
A Cast Or Knee Brace
The top of the cast can pinch nerves. Nerve compression can also occur when a brace is too tight or rigid.
Prolonged Sitting or Bed Rest
Lying down can lead to the knees flexing and the legs rotating outward, putting pressure on the nerves. This pressure can cause the nerves to get pinched.
Sitting for long periods may also cause problems in the sciatic nerve.
Tumors And Cysts
When tumors or cysts form near or in the nerve, they can cause pressure and nerve damage.
Most of the time, only the myelin surrounding the nerve is damaged. Symptoms are similar if the nerve itself is also damaged, but they are more severe.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica In The Knee
The most bothersome symptom is dorsiflexion or weakness that prevents your foot from lifting towards your leg. You walk with a dragged foot as a result.
You can also experience pain outside your lower leg and on the top of your foot if you have a pinched peroneal nerve.
Nerve pain, tingling sensations, or pins and needles are some of the common symptoms. A person may also feel numbness, pain, and a burning sensation.
In the case of a pinched nerve that has been present for two weeks or longer, the muscles supplied by the nerve can begin to waste away.
What’s pushing on the nerve may cause intermittent or continuous symptoms.
In addition, pinched nerves in the lower back can cause these symptoms. It is also possible to have pain in your lower back or hip and outside your leg if this is the cause.
What Helps Knee Pain From Sciatica?
Using alternate heat and ice treatments
Although hot and cold are opposites, they provide comfort. In the case of a recent injury, cold treatment is usually best.
You can also use an ice pack wrapped in a towel or a heating pad for about 15-20 minutes at a time to help you relax. Make sure your skin doesn’t get burned.
It is possible to reduce sciatic nerve pain by alternating heat and ice therapy. Inflammation can be reduced by ice, while heat promotes blood flow to the painful area (which speeds healing).
Sciatica is often accompanied by painful muscle spasms that can be alleviated by heat and ice. For 15 minutes every hour, apply an ice pack to the painful area, and then every 2-3 hours, apply heat to the area.
It is important to always protect your skin with a barrier (like a towel) when using heat or ice, and you should never sleep while using either.
Take over-the-counter medicines
It may help to treat both your pain and inflammation with NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These medications relieve pain. Muscle relaxants may also help.
Take the dose recommended by the label of your medication unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise. Before using an NSAID, make sure you understand the health risks. Consult your doctor first.
Stretch gently throughout the day. Among the many benefits that stretching can provide, you’ll also add strength to your core and improve your spinal flexibility.
Sitting spinal stretch
The compression of spinal vertebrae causes sciatica pain. Stretching the spine creates space in the spine that relieves pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Place your feet flexed upward on the ground and stretch your legs straight out.
Your right knee should be bent, and the opposite knee should be flat on the floor.
You can gently turn your body to the right by placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee.
Try it three times, holding for 30 seconds each time, then switching sides.
Standing hamstring stretch
By stretching the hamstrings in this manner, sciatica pain can be eased.
Place your right foot at or below the level of your hips on an elevated surface. Chairs, ottomans, and steps on staircases may be a perfect fit for this exercise.
Straighten your legs and toes, and then bend your foot. Maintain a slight bend in your knee if it tends to hyperextend.
Put your foot forward and bend slightly forward. You will stretch further as you go. Be careful not to push yourself too hard.
Lift your raised leg upward while releasing your hip downward. A yoga strap or long exercise band can help ease your hip down. Loop the strap over your right thigh and underneath your left foot to help ease your hip down.
Repeat on the other side after holding for at least 30 seconds.
Be careful when exercising
For people with sciatic nerve pain, there is no one-size-fits-all exercise.
By slight adjustments, such as moving your knees in more or less, you can get a better sense of how they feel. If you are feeling better, then you should pursue that treatment.
If you are experiencing even mild sciatic nerve pain, see a doctor or physical therapist as soon as possible. A customized exercise program suggested by a healthcare provider provides you with more relief.
Physical therapy should be the first course of treatment for sciatica since it is active, educational, and focuses on restoring function and making patients independent.
Finding an experienced physical therapist is the key. Look for someone who knows how to integrate alignment, movement, and therapeutic exercise and build a precise treatment plan to achieve measurable outcomes.
Sciatica treatment and physical therapy aim to alleviate pain and treat any underlying cause that might cause sciatica pain.
This medical condition is severe and can be debilitating. Alternative therapies may be available to help with the pain but make sure to seek advice from your doctor or therapist first before trying alternatives.
Can Knee Pain Radiate Up Leg?
When you have sciatica, you may experience the following knee symptoms:
In the front, sides, or back of the knee, a hot sensation, sharp pain, or dull ache may be felt. A person may also experience Having difficulty bearing weight on one’s knee.
Knee weakness, especially when trying to straighten the leg, is also a common symptom of sciatica.
If you suffer from sciatica, you may also suffer from knee pain, buttock, thigh, calf muscles, and foot pain. Most frequently, sciatica pain will only affect one leg at a time, so pain in both knees is rare in this case.
Can a Bulging Disc Cause Knee Pain?
Because your lower spine carries a significant amount of weight and is constantly in motion, your spinal discs are vulnerable to injury and pain.
Injuries to your disc can cause the soft inner core (nucleus pulposus) to migrate from its normal position and push against the fibrous outer layers (annulus fibrosus). Alternatively, the fibrous rings can be torn, allowing the soft material to leak out.
A disc is typically found close to the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots (part of a spinal nerve as it leaves the spinal cord).
A Herniated disc can affect many nerve roots, including the sciatic nerve. Once the sciatic nerve is affected, knee pain is highly possible.
How Is Sciatica in the Knee Diagnosed?
To make a diagnosis and determine the cause, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical exam.
To diagnose sciatica, your doctor will tap on the area around the top of your tibia. This is where the nerve in your knee is located. You probably have a pinched peroneal nerve if you feel shooting pain down your leg.
Diagnosing sciatica also involves getting an X-ray so that the doctor can check for fractures or abnormal masses in your knee.
A knee MRI can confirm the diagnosis and show details of the fractures or other issues in the bones, including masses within the nerves.
The doctor will also test your muscles using electromyography (EMG) and do a nerve conduction test to determine how fast signals travel along a nerve for a more accurate diagnosis.
Sciatica can be mistaken for the runner’s knee. Make to get a proper diagnosis from a doctor or therapist.
This medical condition can have several underlying causes, such as cysts and tumors. Injuries in the hip joint may also cause it. Make sure to seek medical care when pain in the knee is reoccurring more than usual.