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Can Sciatica Cause Knee Pain? How They’re Connected

Having knee pain is a bummer. And it’s a challenge trying to figure out what is contributing to your knee pain in the first place. One possibility for your knee pain that often is overlooked stems from your spine. Is it possible that sciatica is causing your knee pain? 

What is Sciatica? 

Sciatica is characterized by nerve pain originating at the sciatic nerve, the largest and longest nerve in the body. It originates at the base of your spine, running down the back of each leg to your feet.

Does Sciatica Cause Knee Pain? 

Knee pain can be common if dealing with sciatica. Symptoms such as shooting pain, tingling sensation, or knee weakness are customary symptoms of sciatica. Usually only one leg/knee is affected at a time, and you may have additional symptoms in surrounding areas, such as your buttocks. 

How to Know if Your Knee Pain is From Your Spine

There are several signals that can help you understand whether your knee pain is coming from your spine. If you feel at least one of these symptoms, then sciatica might be the cause for your knee pain.

You Have Back Pain and Knee Pain Together

Since sciatica originates at the spine, having back pain and knee pain together can be a standard occurrence.

The nerves in your spine affect pain signals across your whole body, which can result in your knee receiving the strain, despite the origin coming from a different part of your body.

It can also be helpful to be diagnosed by a physical therapist or physician to help designate that there is a direct relationship between your back pain and knee pain. 

Your Hips Feel Weak

If nerves in your spine become irritated or compressed, your hips can start to feel weak, especially if your lumbar spine (lower back) is affected.

Your hips attach directly to your spine, and since the entire body is connected like a chain, an injury to one link in the chain (your spine) can affect the next link (your hips).

Consequently, since your hips help control movement in your legs, your hips feeling weak can have an impact on the severity of the aforementioned knee pain symptoms.  

Muscle Tightness in the Hamstrings

Muscle tightness in the hamstrings can often be an indicator whether your knee pain is coming from your spine.

Tight hamstrings can put undue stress on your lumbar spine, and eventually cause irritation in the sciatic nerve. If the sciatic nerve gets irritated, all the links in the previously mentioned “chain” can be impacted, including your knee. 

Consider doing poses like downward facing dog and reclining pigeon to loosen tight muscles

Bunions on the Feet

Bunions are not as harmless as they may seem! Having bunions on your feet illustrates your body’s compensation for instability or injury at the ankle, knee, hip, and/or spine.

If the instability or injury causes you to limp or walk unnaturally, your feet can pronate and roll inwards, putting pressure on the base of your big toe, creating a bunion.

Continuously walking/running/etc. with bunions and undue pressure on your big toe can cause strain and irritation in your spine. As a result, with the foot and spine both under duress,, the knee has to pick up the slack and work harder, causing knee pain. 

How are the Spine and Knee Connected?

When the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated as a result of an injury or compensation, it can result in referred pain at any of the regions that travel along the sciatic nerve pathway, which includes your knee.

Since the whole body is connected, and nerves are responsible for sending sensory signals to your brain, referred pain can exist in one area (the knee), despite the pain originating elsewhere (the spine).