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Spine and Back Health

Low Back and Arm Pain

02/09/2009

Question:

I have low back pain, with sudden onset, that seems very typical of sciatica: low back pain, running down into the buttocks, down my leg, back of my shin, and my foot, only on the left side. It came on suddenly, although I don`t recall any incident that would cause injury. But now I also have arm pain on the same side, especially when lifting the arm. That doesn`t seem to make sense with the sciatica. I am still in the phase of treatment at home: heat, over the counter pain meds, keeping up activities. If the pain continues I will seek treatment but at this point I am trying at home remedies first. Is it common to also have arm pain with sciatica?

Answer:

Hello, thank you for your question. Sciatica, and lower back problems that produce sciatica, does not affect the arm. Period. However, many people with arthritis, disc degeneration, stenosis, and other lower back problems also frequently have similar problems in their necks, which can affect the arm. It is also possible to have back pain and/or neck pain, but then to separately have some sort of neurologic problem that can produce nerve pain in the limbs, but not usually both arm and leg. As long as you have no weakness, numbness, or tingling there shouldn’t be too much cause for alarm, but if your symptoms persist you should see a doctor. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University