When a patient with scoliosis reports back or leg pain, doctors often blame the spinal curves—despite the fact that idiopathic scoliosis rarely causes pain.
But the curves often aren’t the culprit. Many patients are actually suffering from a separate, unrelated condition that goes undetected while the curvature takes the blame. Take sciatica and scoliosis, for example; when they appear together, it’s often difficult to discern whether they’re related.
Sciatica—leg pain that originates in the lower back and travels down the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg—afflicts millions of adults. As many as 40 percent will experience it at some point during their lives. More than a million patients each year undergo MRI scans to determine its origin, and many will be told there’s no obvious cause for their pain. When a cause can be pinpointed, nine times out of 10 it’s attributed to a herniated disc that’s compressing a nerve.
But what does it mean when scoliosis and sciatica nerve pain appear together? Is sciatica just another scoliosis symptom, or did it originate from a separate cause?
The Relationship Between Sciatica and Scoliosis
Sciatica and scoliosis can co-exist for a variety of reasons. While it’s possible for scoliosis to cause pain in the sciatic nerve, such cases are unusual. More commonly, patients develop sciatica-like leg pain due to their postural imbalance. Or, in rare instances, the sciatica can even be the underlying cause of the scoliosis.
Here are just a few of the ways scoliosis and sciatica pain can manifest together:
Pinched nerve. In some scoliosis patients, the tilting and rotation of the vertebrae can pinch a nerve root, resulting in sciatica.
Pseudo sciatica. As the scoliosis curves throw the spine out of balance, the patient often compensates by shifting more weight onto one leg—usually the right one. This can lead to chronic leg pain that mimics sciatica.
Arthritis. Patients who have had scoliosis for a long time tend to develop arthritis faster in the affected area of the spine. This can cause sciatica-type pain, as well.
Sciatic scoliosis. Sometimes a herniated disc can prompt an asymmetric spasm of the spinal muscles, causing a postural deformity known as sciatic scoliosis. Usually the spine returns to normal once the source of the pain has been treated.
Treating Scoliosis and Sciatica Pain
When the cause of sciatica can’t be determined or addressed, pain management becomes the focus. There are a wide range of treatment options available for both scoliosis and sciatica nerve pain, including acupuncture, massage therapy and exercise.
For scoliosis patients who prefer a drug-free lifestyle, dietary supplements such as curcumin can provide natural, long-lasting pain relief comparable to over-the-counter medications such as Aleve. With the help of ScoliPAIN plus, a powerful curcumin and black pepper extract, patients have achieved a 40 percent reduction in pain.
When sciatica and scoliosis appear together, it can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. Fortunately, both respond to many of the same pain management therapies, regardless of their cause.