Sciatica & Heel Pain - What’s The Link?
When you’re experiencing heel pain, it’s only natural to assume that the cause of the pain is coming from the heel - or at least the foot or ankle. The reality is that this isn’t always the case and that your heel pain may actually be caused by a problem with your lower back or your buttocks - namely, sciatica.
Today, we’ll be sharing how sciatica may be the cause of your heel pain - and how we can find out if it is.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica describes a type of pain that is caused by compression or damage to your sciatic nerve. Your sciatic nerve originates in the spinal cord in your lower back and moves down through the buttocks, down the back of the thigh, down the leg and to the foot.
The sciatic nerve, like all your nerves, is responsible for transmitting sensory information to the brain. That means our nerves helps us interpret the things we touch and feel, and when talking about the sciatic nerve specifically, these sensations will originate from areas of the foot.
How Does Sciatica Cause Heel Pain?
When something compresses, irritates or injuries the sciatic nerve, it can cause a number of neural symptoms in the buttocks, thighs, calf, foot and ankle including:
Pins and needles
This means that when something is irritating your sciatic nerve, you can experience heel pain. Usually, when the cause of the sciatica is related to a prolapsed disc or something further up by the spinal cord, you’re also likely to experience symptoms in the buttocks and leg. However, if your sciatic nerve is being compressed further down in your buttocks, thigh or calf, then you’re more likely to experience more isolated pain that can present in the heel.
What this means is that while many are quick to jump on the plantar fasciitis diagnosis for your heel pain, this isn’t always the case. Especially if you’ve tried treatment and it hasn’t helped to alleviate your pain. And this may be why you haven’t got results from your heel pain treatments in the past.
I’ve Had Heel Pain For Years - And I’ve Tried All Of The Treatments. How Do I Find Out If It Is Sciatica?
The first step is to book in
with one of our Podiatrists so they can perform an assessment to help determine whether your symptoms could be neural. There are two tests in particular that are great for this - the slump test
and the straight leg raise test
. This will give us a great indication into whether your symptoms are likely to be neural, as these tests should bring on neural symptoms if your sciatic nerve has been affected.
Next, we’ll work to determine where your sciatic nerve is likely to be affected, and send you for appropriate imaging to help determine the cause. It may be from compression or swelling, it may be from tightness in your leg - it may even be from arthritic joint changes. Sciatica can have many variable causes.
We can then form the right treatment plan for you with the goal of reducing compression on the sciatic nerve. Depending on what the problem is, we may refer you to a chiropractor or other allied health professional too.
And If It’s Not Sciatica?
The good news is that if your heel pain isn’t being caused by sciatica, we’re the heel pain experts and will use all of our knowledge and experience to find out what is the cause. We love a good challenge - and we completely understand if you feel hesitant because you’ve seen other health professionals that haven’t been able to help. You’re in good hands with us! And we’d love to help. If you've previously had problems with your lower or upper back, neck, or head and are wondering if it could be related to other pains that you're experiencing, book in with our sister clinic, The Physio, by clicking here