First things first, let’s all let ourselves laugh a little over the word “groin.” It’s a funny word, and it refers to a funny part of the body, so you’re allowed to laugh at this article even if it’s talking about a serious medical topic. Now, let’s get to business: yes, sciatica can cause groin pain. It’s a very common phenomenon in sufferers, though it’s not one that’s well-understood by patients. After all, sciatica is a back problem, isn’t it? How could it affect the groin? Here at AICA Snellville, we hope to clarify what exactly sciatica is and why it can be a pain in the literal you-know-where.
What Is Sciatica?
To start, it may be best to establish what exactly sciatica is. Sciatica is a condition in which pain radiates down to the lower part of your body from the sciatic nerve, a major nerve that extends from your lower spine and travels down your leg. It generally just affects one side of the body, but it has been known to affect both sides in some cases. The sciatic nerve can cause discomfort anywhere along its length, but sciatica pain is most commonly reported following a line that goes down your lower back to your glutes, as well as down the back of your thigh and calf. It is most commonly associated with the middle-aged and elderly, as most back pain-related illnesses are, but it is on the rise in children as well.
Sciatica pain could be anything from a mild ache to a searing, burning feeling to paralyzing agony. It could also feel like a jolt or an electric shock sometimes, but the burning sensation associated with sciatica is more or less unambiguous. Coughing and sneezing could also aggravate the condition, as well as sitting for long periods of time. Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness throughout the affected leg or foot are also typical and can vary considerably in severity from slightly bothersome to complete dysfunction in the affected leg.
How Sciatica Can Cause Groin Pain
Knowing the areas that sciatica affects, it only seems natural that it would cause some level of pain or discomfort in the groin. In fact, it’s very well-documented that sciatica has a direct link to chronic pain in the glutes and groin. Sufferers of this particularly nasty variant of sciatica may experience pain in their inner thighs, lower abdominal ache, anal pain, as well as pain and discomfort in and around the genital area.
The reason sciatica causes groin pain is the same as why it causes pain and discomfort in every other area it affects: because your nerves are pinched, damaged, or otherwise obstructed in such a way that it causes errant signals to be shot down the leg. Much like sticking your finger in the business end of a running water hose, the flow of electricity through the nerves becomes scrambled and interrupted in places, which can lead to the loss of sensation in some areas and burning pain in others.
A Quick Note About Cauda Equina Syndrome
Though sciatica generally isn’t an emergency room diagnosis, there is a condition with similar symptoms that is: cauda equina syndrome, or CES. CES is a rare but life-threatening condition that refers to a group of symptoms that occur when nerves in the cauda equina—a collection of nerve roots that spread out from the bottom of the spinal cord—become compressed or damaged. The hallmark symptoms of CES include extreme pain and weakness of the legs and lower back, sexual dysfunction, “saddle anesthesia”—which is a numbness that occurs anywhere a saddle would make contact, and incontinence.
These symptoms are very similar to what you might experience with sciatica groin pain, but it’s important to distinguish the two, as CES requires immediate hospitalization.
No, this isn’t pain that your nerves recommended to you. Referred pain is any pain that seems to “migrate” or is otherwise seemingly unrelated to the actual problem area. A familiar example of this is in heart attack patients, who often feel pain in their left arms at the time of their heart attacks. There are still many mysteries surrounding the nature of referred pain. Some theories state that it occurs due to the brain stem receiving sensory input from multiple areas at the same time, overwhelming it and causing it to not be able to identify the correct source. Some newer theories have suggested a more subatomic approach involving quantum mechanics.|
Whatever the forces at play, there is one consistent truth: the pain is almost always related to the same nerve as the source. So, referred pain involving sciatica and the groin makes sense.
Treatment of Referred Pain
When it comes to referred back pain treatment, it’s most effective to treat it at the source. In this case, to treat the pain, one must first treat sciatica. Treatment of sciatica often starts with self-care: hot/cold packs, stretches, and over-the-counter medications are typically recommended for mild cases. If these measures don’t improve the pain, your doctor may also recommend physical therapy, steroid injections, or, in severe cases, surgical intervention.
There have also been substantial studies done vouching for chiropractic as a safe, non-invasive, and natural treatment method for sciatica and, as such, its referred pain. This is a good option to consider for those with high addiction risks, intolerances to prescription drugs, or anxiety about the potential risks of a surgical procedure. However, the efficacy of chiropractic care, as well as the practice itself, is rooted in continuous maintenance rather than a quick fix, so this is something to keep in mind.
If you’re experiencing sciatica, with or without the referred pain, the professionals at AICA Snellville may be able to help. Our team consists of trained medical professionals ranging from orthopedists to chiropractors, giving you a wide range of potential treatment options. Groin pain—or anything involving the groin for that matter—can be an embarrassing subject to bring up to a doctor. However, we don’t judge our patients here, and we’d be more than happy to get you walking right again.