Sciatic pain behind knee: What We Know About Sciatica Knee Pain
What We Know About Sciatica Knee Pain
It’s no secret that your knees can take a beating. They are two of the most essential, load-bearing joints in the body. However, as a result, this also means they can be susceptible to a number of different issues that can result in pain, discomfort, or other symptoms. This can include—but is not limited to—sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
“Sciatica is pain in the back and buttock due to spine disease,” states Joshua M. Ammerman, M.D., a board-certified neurosurgeon who serves as chief of the neurosurgery section and chair of the Department of Surgery at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. The pain is the result of compression, irritation, or inflammation of the sciatic nerve or nerve roots in the low back.
Spine diseases that can result in sciatica include:
Degenerative disc disease (DDD): When the discs between the vertebrae wear down with time and stress
Disc herniation: Where the inside of the discs between the vertebrae leak out and compress/irritate surrounding nerves
Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal that can pinch nerves
Spondylolisthesis: A condition that occurs when one vertebra in the back slips forward onto the one directly below it
How Can Sciatica Cause Knee Pain?
The problem with sciatica is that the issues it can cause don’t stop with the back. In fact, sciatic nerve pain and other related symptoms can take a trip all the way down to the end of your leg and make a pit stop in your knee via a branch of the sciatic nerve known as the peroneal nerve. This can cause symptoms in your knee such as:
A dull ache, warm sensation, or sharp pain anywhere around the knee
An inability to straighten your knee
Buckling of the knee
Problems with bearing weight on the knee
In short: Because sciatica is most commonly caused by an issue in the low back, it can travel to other parts of the body and cause problems. For example, “If arthritis in the spine is pressing on the L3-L4 level nerves it can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in that nerve’s distribution,” says Dr. Ammerman. [Arthritis is a broad term used to cover conditions that cause pain and swelling in the joints.] “Those nerves travel out of the back, through the buttock, along the front of the thigh, and terminate at the knee.
“Additionally, though knee pain due to sciatica is somewhat uncommon, many patients with spine disease have an abnormal gait pattern, which can also stress the knee and lead to local pain.”
What Are Some More Common Causes of Knee Pain?
“The most common cause would be degenerative arthritis of the knee joint,” Dr. Ammerman says. “In addition, gout can cause knee pain and—though less common—infections of the knee joint.”
It’s also worth noting that knee pain and discomfort can be caused by things other than an underlying disease or condition. These can include:
Heavy physical activity that puts additional and/or repeated strain on the knee
Lack of physical activity
Strains and sprains of the tendons/ligaments/muscles within the structure of the knee
How Long Does Sciatica-Related Knee Pain Last?
If sciatica is truly the cause of your knee pain, then it will only last if your sciatica does. That said, how long your sciatica will drag out depends on the type of sciatica: acute or chronic.
An acute sciatic episode will typically resolve within a few weeks, and you may have a few episodes a year. However, chronic sciatica is a lifelong condition that will not really resolve on its own without intervention by a specialist.
How Is Sciatica Treated?
In most cases, sciatica can be treated conservatively. Most patients with sciatica symptoms improve over time and respond well to non-surgical treatments, such as medication, exercise and special sciatica stretches, and physical therapy (PT). Spinal manipulation, such as chiropractic care, also can help reduce sciatica symptoms.
“I always recommend beginning with rest, ice, and elevation,” Dr. Ammerman says. “If those do not solve the issue, then the judicious use of NSAIDs [non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen] can be very helpful. For symptoms that do not respond to the above measure or persist beyond a few weeks, a consultation with a physician is appropriate.”
What At-Home Stretches Can Provide Relief?
As mentioned, the only way to get rid of pesky knee pain caused by sciatica is to alleviate sciatica itself. There are several stretches you can do to help take some of the pressure off your sciatic nerve. They include:
Knee to chest to reduce nerve compression: Lying down, gently hug one of your knees to your chest while extending the other leg flat on the floor. Hold for about 30 seconds, and alternate to hug the other knee to your chest.
Lower trunk rotations to increase the mobility and flexibility of your spine: Lying flat on the floor, bend both of your knees in and rotate at the hips so both knees are pointing to the right and resting on the floor. Hold for three to five seconds, and rotate at the hips so your knees rest on the floor and point to the left. Keep alternating or hold the stretch on each side for about 30 seconds.
Pelvic tilt or all fours opposite arm and leg extensions to strengthen your abdominal muscles and stretch the low back
No matter the cause, knee pain can be a real pain [in the back]. But remember: At the end of the day, it’s important to speak to a physician first to get a proper diagnosis when your knee—or any other part of your body—is hurting for an extended period of time. Until then, take time to rest.
Notes: This article was originally published August 18, 2022 and most recently updated September 26, 2022.
Our Review ProcessMary Kate Phan:
Mary Kate Phan is a writer with a wealth of experience in discussing health care-related topics. From neurology to podiatry, she has helped patients understand complex conditions and procedures that may help improve their lives for the better.
Shaheen Lakhan, M.D., Neurologist:
Shaheen Lakhan, M.D., Ph.D., FAAN, is a physician-scientist and clinical development specialist. He is board-certified in both neurology and pain medicine with clinical training from the Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Can sciatica cause knee pain? Research, pain relief, and more
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, down the back of the leg to the knee. Sciatica describes pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve, including the knee, due to compression, damage, or nerve irritation.
Research suggests that sciatica is most common once a person reaches their 40s.
Sciatica may have a slow or sudden onset, and symptoms may range from mild to severe; each person will have a different experience. The most common cause of sciatica is a bulging lumbar intervertebral disc or herniated disc.
Some estimates indicate that most people recover from sciatica within 4-6 weeks without further medical complications.
However, according to NHS Inform in the United Kingdom (UK), a doctor may want to investigate further if a person’s pain does not subside after 6 weeks.
This article discusses where a person may feel sciatica pain, tips to help relieve it, sciatica treatment, and when to speak with a healthcare professional.
Since one of the most common causes of sciatica is a bulging lumbar intervertebral disc, people with sciatica often feel pain in the lumbar spine or lower back.
Sometimes, the pain can be intense.
The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back, travels down the back of the leg, and ends at the knee where it branches into the tibial and common peroneal nerves. A person may experience sciatica anywhere along the sciatic nerve, including the knee. Therefore, sciatica may be a cause of knee pain.
The sciatic nerve also provides sensation to the front and back of the lower leg and foot. Therefore, a person may also experience pain in those areas.
According to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), a person may also experience numbness, weakness, tingling, or a burning sensation in the buttocks, back of the legs, and feet.
Learn more about sciatica pain here.
Research suggests that a person typically recovers from sciatica, including sciatic knee pain, within 4-6 weeks.
There are several lifestyle choices and home remedies a person may wish to try that may help to relieve symptoms of sciatica and sciatic knee pain. Some of these may include:
- a hot or cold compress may help relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- avoiding any activities that aggravate the pain
- avoiding sitting or standing for long periods
- maintaining good posture
- increasing core strength
- stretching and strengthening the lower back and hamstrings
- following a regular, low intensity exercise regimen
- only lifting objects using a proper technique
- complementary therapies such as physical therapy, deep tissue massage, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture.
A person should speak with a healthcare professional about which techniques may work best for them.
Learn more about how long sciatica lasts.
Doctors may recommend a variety of treatments to help relieve sciatica. Some of these include:
- Oral medications, such as:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- muscle relaxants
- Some people may require steroid injections
- A doctor may recommend surgery if a person has a herniated disc, a spinal epidural hematoma, an abscess, or a tumor near the spine causing sciatica pain.
Learn more about treatments for sciatica pain.
People should speak with a doctor if they experience sciatica pain, as they can likely diagnose the problem. A healthcare professional may carry out a full examination and diagnostic tests before recommending appropriate treatment.
If people have tried several home remedies and lifestyle changes and the pain has not subsided after a few weeks, they should seek medical advice. A person might also consider consulting a doctor if the pain worsens or stops them from doing any usual activities.
If a person has a compressed sciatic nerve and does not receive the appropriate treatment, complications may develop, including:
- increasing pain as time passes
- burning or prickling sensation in the affected leg
- decreased strength in the affected leg
- reduced function of the bowel or bladder
- permanent nerve damage
Anyone who experiences any of the following should call 911:
- sciatica on both sides of the body
- numbness around or under the genitals or around the anus
- severe numbness or weakness in both legs, or worsening numbness or weakness in both legs
- difficulty starting urination, inability to urinate, or urinary incontinence, if this is not typical for them
- not noticing when they need to have a bowel movement or cannot control when they have a bowel movement if this is not typical for them
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the knee. Pressure, damage, or irritation of the sciatic nerve causes sciatica. Pain can occur anywhere along the sciatic nerve or in the lower legs, feet, and knees.
People typically recover from sciatica and sciatic knee pain by making lifestyle changes and treating pain at home.
However, sciatica pain can be intense, and medical treatments are available. Speak with a doctor or another healthcare professional about the most suitable treatments.
If the pain is ongoing, worsens, or causes additional symptoms, a person should seek further medical attention.
Pain on the inside of the knee and sphenoid neuralgia
Sphenoid neuralgia is usually observed when this nerve passes through Gunther’s canal, or, more often, due to its friction against the sartorius muscle, adductor muscles and glenoid muscle. This compression neuropathy causes pain, paresthesia, and sensory disturbance in the areas through which the nerve in question passes. These symptoms lead to the fact that the patient most often complains of pain on the inside of the knee. Pain due to sphenoid neuralgia may increase when the patient sits or squats. With the help of an objective examination, pain can be detected in the area under which the path of the sphenoid nerve lies, on the inside of the femur in its middle part, exactly in the midline. Flexibility is not lost. Sitting or squatting puts extra pressure on the sphenoid nerve, which increases the symptoms of sphenoid neuralgia. Sphenoid neuralgia is often misdiagnosed as radiculopathy of the lumbar spinal nerves or as problems in the knee.
In most cases, an EMG examination is advisable. Pinching of the sphenoid nerve can occur sooner after making vigorous movements than at rest. In this case, any examination other than an objective one will be useless. An objective/physical examination involves a test by rolling a roller on the inside of the knee in the area innervated by the sphenoid nerve. Hyperalgesia is observed in patients with sphenoid neuralgia.
The methods of shock wave therapy DUOLIT and peripheral magnetic stimulation SALUS TALENT, mesotherapy with vascular preparations and local ozone therapy have proved to be the most effective.
For the diagnosis and treatment of pain on the inside of the knee and sphenoid neuralgia, please contact the clinic FIRST NEUROLOGY.
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Pinched sciatic nerve – symptoms and treatment
Pinched sciatic nerve – discomfort in the lower body associated with squeezing or irritation of the nerve itself. Most often, the disease affects people over 30 years old.
The sciatic nerve is the largest in our body. It covers most of the body – from the lumbosacral spine, then passes into the buttock, along the back of the thigh and to the lower leg. Therefore, it is important to monitor his condition. The slightest irritation in one part of the nerve will lead to pain throughout its area. In the absence of timely treatment, sensitivity and mobility of the lower extremities are gradually lost.
Pinching may occur due to:
- Lumbar hypothermia
- Excessive load on the pelvic muscles
- Scoliosis and other spinal disorders
- Spinal injuries
- Arthrosis and other diseases of the hip joint
- Complications during childbirth
- Injuries of the sciatic nerve by intramuscular injections
- Infectious diseases
- Neoplasms (benign and malignant)
- Pain when bruised or falling
- Herniated disc
- Piriformis Syndrome
Therefore, experts divide the disease into two types – primary and secondary. The primary is associated with compression of the nerve trunk by a damaged muscle, and the secondary is caused by the pathology of the spinal column, hip joints, and occurs against the background of pregnancy or diseases of the pelvic organs.
A pinched nerve can develop faster if you are overweight. It is also important to monitor the intake of essential vitamins and minerals in the body, since their absence or deficiency leads to the risk of accelerated development of the disease.
Symptoms and treatment of pinched sciatic nerve
This disease is quite painful and will not pass without a trace. Therefore, when the first symptoms appear, you should see a specialist – a neurologist, neuropathologist or therapist. He will prescribe the necessary treatment and medications.
Symptoms of pinched sciatic nerve
- Pain in the lower back, hamstrings, buttocks or lower leg
- Discomfort while walking, when bringing the legs together and bending the knee
- Feeling of heat in the toes
- Feeling of chilliness in the affected area of the nerve
- Excessive sweating
- Impaired joint mobility – usually patients complain that they cannot straighten their leg
- Numbness of limbs
- Goosebumps on the leg
- Discoloration of the skin in the affected area
- General malaise, lethargy and weakness
- Increased body temperature
It is in the presence of these symptoms that neuropathologists, neurologists and therapists diagnose a pinched sciatic nerve. If the specialist has doubts, then to fully clarify the situation, the patient is sent for CT or MRI. Based on the results of the procedures, the diagnosis and treatment will be determined.
Symptoms in women with pinched sciatic nerve
The disease can occur during pregnancy. In the second or third trimester, the enlarged uterus puts pressure on the pelvic muscles, thereby causing a spasm. In the expectant mother, the center of gravity is redistributed and the lumbar vertebrae are displaced. Also in the pelvic area, the growing head of the fetus compresses the sciatic nerve.
From 40 to 80% of pregnant women complain of back pain. However, pinching of the sciatic nerve is not always the cause, it is observed only in 5% of cases.
Doctors say that the disease can go away after childbirth. However, you should not endure pain until this moment, it is better to see a specialist in order to avoid serious consequences and increase pain.
Treatment of pinched sciatic nerve
Most of the time, the pain comes on suddenly. Therefore, before contacting a specialist, you need to take a few simple steps:
- Sit in a comfortable and pain-free position. The best option is to lie on your back or on your healthy side with a straight leg in which pain is felt
- Avoid activity as much as possible, as each extra movement can provoke additional pain
- Give up old-fashioned methods of treatment – it is better to put the heating pad aside, and do not rub the diseased area. These actions may aggravate the situation
- Take painkillers. They will help dull the sharp aching pain. Usually such drugs are in the form of capsules or ointments
Emergency medical attention should be called for unbearable pain that is not dulled or suppressed by analgesics. In more favorable cases, medical assistance is also needed. It is best to contact a neurologist, neurologist or therapist. As soon as the pain is relieved, see a doctor at a local clinic.
How is a pinched sciatic nerve treated?
After asking about symptoms and examining, the doctor refers the patient to an X-ray, ultrasound, CT, MRI, or a general and biochemical blood test. Procedures are necessary in order to determine the extent of the problem. Also, based on their results, the doctor determines the cause of the pinched sciatic nerve and detects inflammation.
After that, experts prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, a complex of B vitamins and muscle relaxants. Also, the patient can receive a referral to physiotherapy and exercise therapy. Usually, procedures are prescribed for unbearable pain that does not go away even after complex treatment. In special cases, the doctor may prescribe additional vitamin complexes, antioxidants and painkillers. Thus, not only the symptoms of the disease will be removed, but the fight against the disease-causative agent will also begin.