Can Sciatica Cause Knee Pain?

Spine and Disc Center

A person's hands grasp their knee, with a digital overlay illustrating the muscles and bones inside the knee joint.

Knee pain can be experienced due to a multitude of factors – external traumas, dislocations, sprains, tears, and even, irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The question isn’t whether can sciatica cause knee pain, but how to know if your sciatica is causing the knee pain.

Keep reading to find out more!

Knee Pain Is a Common Symptom of Sciatica

When it comes to sciatica pain, common symptoms may include :

  • A warm sensation pulsing down the leg
  • Sharp burning pain in the leg
  • A dull pain in the knee (be it the front, back, or side)
  • Buckling of the knee when weight is applied to it
  • Weakness in the leg whilst trying to extend or straighten it
  • Sharp pain in the buttock
  • Pain in the thigh, calf, and even the foot!

These symptoms can be more vague and hard to self-diagnose. A warming sensation can be mixed with lower back pain, radiating knee pain, a feeling of numbness in the leg, and tingling in the foot.

So, the bad news – Sciatica nerve pain can truly affect many areas of the body, including the knee!

The good news – it almost always occurs in one leg at a time.

There are, of course, other potential non-sciatica causes of knee pain. For example, a herniated disc pressing on a nerve other than the sciatica can make you experience pain in that area.

If the L4 spinal verve is being compressed, it often affects the knee, and may also cause lower back pain, as well as pain down the entire leg (thigh, knee and calf).

Finally, you may have what’s often referred to as “Runner’s Knee” or patellofemoral stress syndrome, were the knee cap is dislodged and is now rubbing against the femur (thigh bone). This can cause a hot, radiating, unpleasant sensation around the knee and this knee pain can be mistaken for sciatica.

How Long Does Sciatica Knee Pain Last?

Sciatica causes knee pain for only about 1 or 2 weeks, and even some home remedies can relieve mild sciatica knee pain symptoms. This is known as acute sciatica and it can last up to 6 or 8 weeks, but if it’s longer than that then we identify the condition as chronic sciatica.

If you are prone to sciatica and know you have it as a chronic condition, then implementing some basic remediation techniques may save you a visit to the doctor or chiropractor.

Let’s explore the best practices when it comes to handing knee pain cause by sciatica.

What to Do About Sciatica Pain…And What Not to Do

In a bright physical therapy office, a male therapist in a white uniform is gently lifting the leg of a female patient lying on a treatment table, demonstrating a knee-to-chest stretch exercise as part of her rehabilitation program.

There are ways to alleviate knee pain caused by the sciatica even without the help of a professional. Here are some methods you can apply:

  • Alternate hot and cold therapy. Wrap a large chunk of ice to reduce swelling, and apply the cold pack 15-20 minutes at a time. After 3 days, you can start to alternate the cold with heat. Make sure to leave the heating pad for only 15 minutes at a time.
  • Walking to reduce inflammation of the knee, allow the body to find its natural gait and release endorphins.
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may ease the pain symptoms, allowing you to walk with more ease, which in turn may speed up the recovery process.

And here are some things to avoid when suspecting sciatica-cause knee pain:

  • Exercises to stretch the hamstrings as this agitates the area
  • Exercising at all, or doing so very strenuously
  • Sitting too long! Try to get up every 20 minutes or so to get the body moving
  • Bending and twisting your spine too much! You can to avoid agitating the sciatica nerve more than it already is
  • Lifting heavy objects! This both twists the spine and adds stress and weight on it. This can further inflame the already-squashed sciatica nerve and cause even more discomfort.

When to Get Help from a Chiropractor

Physical therapy is usually the first step to take when dealing with knee pain caused by compressed sciatica. However, a licensed chiropractor can set the disc right through spinal alignment, through adjusting the vertebrae, which may offer immediate relief from symptoms. It is a natural and safe procedure you can do alongside physical therapy and, if started soon enough, can relive the patient of symptoms – completely!

If the knee pain is not caused by external injury or condition requiring surgical intervention, contact us for a consultation now.

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