The nerves in the spinal column use a foramen to carry crucial sensory information to other parts of the body. This allows muscle movement, and is required for touching sensations to travel to the brain. Any compression of a spinal nerve will result in pain and is particularly common in the low vertebrae (the L4 and L5 region) near the base of the spine.


Nerve root compression causes sharp or burning pain known as sciatica, which travels down the leg and can reach the top of the thigh. It may not be restricted to a specific area and can be accompanied by a chronic ache, pins and needles or a lack of feeling. A major injury might also entail problems with motion, fatigue or slow reflexes. You may experience spasms in the legs or back. Sciatica pain and its concurrent symptoms usually occur simultaneously with back pain (which can also be present before the sciatica symptoms).

It is worth noting that injuries to different vertebrae can lead to pain in a wider variety of locations. Posterior sciatica, related to problems in the L5-S1 area, can cause pain in the foot and the large toe. Groin pain is associated with an L1 injury, while symptoms in the anterior thigh are regularly caused by the L2, L3 or L4 vertebrae.


Many incorrect techniques or unsuitable practices associated with sports injuries can provoke back conditions. A common example is lifting heavy weights with an unsuitable method that is damaging to the back. Failure to suitably stretch muscles prior to activity can also lead to injuries. Training for excessive lengths of time can cause muscle or ligament fatigue, increasing the risk of injury. Often a nerve root compression is caused by a degenerated or herniated disc, caused by one of the above or an abrupt motion during activity.


A doctor will conduct a series of tests to ascertain the severity of the nerve root compression and how it is affecting the spine and other areas. In a majority of cases, and even if a herniated disc is suspected as the cause, this is unlikely to require surgery unless non-operative treatment fails to resolve the symptoms, most importantly pain. It is crucial to develop a rehabilitation program with the help of a doctor and perhaps a physical therapist. This will involve initial rest from sports or activities that put pressure on the spine, and may also include a prescription for pain medication. Exercise will be implemented in stages as the injury heals, as it is important to keep moving and exercising as much as possible without worsening the symptoms.


To avoid a recurrence of back injuries, always warm up the muscles supporting the back and strengthen them over time. Learn correct lifting techniques, maintain good posture, and prevent overusing your muscles by curbing extreme levels of activity.

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