I've been having some back pain for the last three weeks. I can't remember doing anything to bring it on. I notice in my Pilates class when I'm lying down I get a shooting pain down my left leg whenever I lift it up past a certain point. Is this what people refer to as sciatica?
People often use the term 'sciatica' to mean pain in the buttock and down the leg. The term actually refers to inflammation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve passes through the buttock and then travels down the leg.
Anything that irritates the sciatic nerve can cause pain and tenderness along the nerve pathway. The nerve can become entrapped by muscle or connective tissue. In some cases fibrous scar tissue inside the nerve sheath keeps the nerve from moving smoothly, thus causing pain.
Low back pain with leg pain may be more of an indication of pressure on the spinal nerve as it exits the spinal canal. When the leg is lifted off the floor, the back and/or leg pain occurs. This is called a positive straight leg raise.
A positive straight leg raise can be caused by anything pressing on the nerve. That could be a bulging disc, a bone spur, arthritic changes in the spine, or a tumor.
It might be a good idea to have your symptoms checked out. Early treatment can make a big difference for many conditions. Preventing chronic back pain is always important.