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Pain Management

Sciatica and Upper Spinal Pain

02/26/2007

Question:

Hi,

I have sciatica that flares up on a regular basis for at least 6-7 years now. I had a laminectomy due to nerve entrapment into both legs from the lumbar spine. It did not help the sciatica on the left, which we found out later in standing 2 of the vertebrae are crunching together. I have had epidurals and eventually stopped having them and manage on tylenol.

Yesterday I was walking down the hall and I had a very sharp pain in my lower back to the point of stopping and the pain went up my spine and it felt like it went right through my left eye. I have never had that happen, does that mean my back is worse or is it possible for your spine to cause that sensation?

Thank you.

Answer:

It is unusual for the pain sensation of sciatica to be experienced outside the lower extremities and the low back. There are situations of “referred pain” whereby a noxious stimulus in one area is experienced as pain in another. A classical example of that is a hear attack being experienced as jaw pain or left arm pain, another is irritation of the diaphragm (the muscle for breathing that separates the chest from the abdomen) after abdominal surgery that is experienced as shoulder pain. There is no such relation between sciatica and eye pain. However, if the pain was severe or it crossed paths with other fibers of the spine in the neck area that supply the eye, that could be experienced as eye pain. In either case, if this episode recurs or the symptoms worsen, you may need to seek medical attention.

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Response by:

Salim M Hayek, MD, PhD Salim M Hayek, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University