Back Pain That Shoots to the Butt Causes & Questions
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Back pain that shoots down to the butt is a very common condition and can be caused by damage or narrowing of the spine, inflammation, or it may even be hereditary.
Back pain that shoots to the butt symptoms
Back pain is a very common complaint. Because we need to stand, walk, and do physical work on two legs, this leaves the lower back vulnerable to damage and strain. Pain that shoots to the butt and thighs occurs in many people with back issues due to the interconnected nerves and muscles. "Back pain that shoots to the butt" is also called sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy.
Common characteristics of back pain that shoots to the butt
Your pain can likely be described by the following.
- Severe: The pain may be sharp and mainly in the lower back and radiate or shoot into the butt and back of the thighs.
- Worse with straightening: The pain can be sensitive to extension and get worse when standing, walking, or lying face down.
- Worse with bending: It may get worse while sitting or bending forward.
- Better while lying on your side
Common accompanying symptoms
Along with the back pain, you may also experience:
- Abnormal sensations: Numbness, tingling, and a "pins-and-needles" feeling may be present.
- Muscle spasms: These often occur in the low back and buttocks.
Duration of symptoms
Back pain that shoots to the butt can be short- or long-term depending on both the initial cause and how recovery is addressed.
- Acute form: Pain that begins suddenly and sharply is usually due to a ruptured disc.
- Chronic form: Pain that comes on more gradually is usually due to narrowing of the spinal canal or from an inflamed muscle in the butt irritating the sciatic nerve.
Who is most often affected?
People who are most likely to experience back pain that shoots to the butt include the following.
- Older people: Anyone over age 50.
- Anyone with loss of physical fitness: People who are obese or who have lost muscle tone due to inactivity.
- Weightlifters: This includes people who do lift heavy loads during manual labor or as a sport.
Is back pain that shoots to the butt serious?
This type of back pain can vary in severity depending on the cause.
- Not serious: This would involve a mild strain that resolves with a day or two of rest, stretching, and over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Moderately serious: Ongoing pain and spasms that interfere with activities of daily living are moderately serious.
- Serious: Pain that includes numbness, weakness, difficulty moving, and loss of bladder or bowel control requires prompt medical attention.
Back pain that shoots to the butt causes
Many conditions can cause back pain that shoots to the butt. The following details may help you better understand your symptoms. If your pain worsens or persists, however, you should see a physician.
Damage to a disc in the spinal column can cause back pain that shoots to the butt. The disc cushioning may have been forced out and is irritating the nerves.
Narrowing of the spinal canal
If the spinal canal narrows, this can pressure and irritate nearby nerves, leading to shooting pain and sometimes numbness and tingling. This is called spinal stenosis.
Irritation and inflammation of a small muscle found on either side of the buttocks can lead to this type of back pain. The sciatic nerve runs very close to these muscles and sometimes right through them. If one of the muscles is injured, it may swell, compress the nerve, and cause butt pain. This does not cause low back pain but is often found at the same time as something that does. The back pain may seem to shoot down into the buttocks and legs, but they are actually two separate conditions.
Rare and unusual causes
In rare cases, this type of back pain can be due to the following.
- Heredity: Inherited traits can cause small malformations of the spine, leaving it more prone to narrowing or disc damage. Either of those can lead to back pain that radiates to the butt and legs.
- Tumor: A tumor growing on or near the spinal column can interfere with the sciatic nerve, causing shooting back pain that reaches the buttocks and legs.
This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Sciatica is a general term describing any shooting pain that begins at the spine and travels down the leg.
The most common cause is a herniated or "slipped" disc in the lower spine. This means some of the cushioning material inside the disc has been forced outward, pressing on a nerve root. Bony irregularities..
The two piriformis muscles, left and right, each run from the base of the pelvis to the top of the thighbone. The two sciatic nerves, left and right, are each attached to the spine and run down between the pelvic bone and the piriformis muscle to the back of each leg.
If the piriformis muscle is damaged through sudden trauma, or through overuse as in sports, the resulting inflammation or spasm of the muscle can trap the sciatic nerve between the pelvic bone and the muscle.
Piriformis syndrome is most often found in women over 30.
Symptoms include pain over one or both sides of the low back, and shooting pain (sciatica) down one or both legs.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination and sometimes imaging such as CT scan or MRI.
Treatment involves rest; over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; physical therapy; therapeutic injections; and, rarely, surgery.
The best prevention is a good regimen of stretching before exercise, to help prevent damage to the piriformis.
Top Symptoms: pelvis pain, butt pain, pain when passing stools, leg numbness, hip pain
Symptoms that never occur with piriformis syndrome: involuntary defecation, leaking urine
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Herniated (slipped) disk in the lower back
The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Low back strain
A strain is defined as a twisting, pulling, or tearing injury to a muscle, or to the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone. (A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which connects two bones together.)
Strains may be acute (happen suddenly) or chronic (show up gradually.) They are usually caused by overuse, improper lifting of heavy objects, or sports. Being overweight or having weak back muscles are both risk factors for back injury.
Symptoms may include a pop or tear at the time of injury; pain that is worse when moving; and sudden muscle cramping or spasm at the site of the injury.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes x-ray.
Treatment involves rest; ice packs; and over-the-counter pain relievers, followed by a gradual return to normal activities within two weeks. Prolonged immobility actually weakens the back and causes loss of bone density.
Proper lifting techniques, strengthening exercises, and good nutrition can be very helpful in preventing further injury.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that gets worse when sitting, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, lower left back pain, lower right back pain
Symptoms that always occur with low back strain: lower back pain
Symptoms that never occur with low back strain: involuntary defecation, first time leaking urine, back numbness, toe numbness, foot numbness
Back pain due to pregnancy
Pregnancy is a strain on the body and can cause many temporary ailments. As the baby grows and more weight is added in the mid-section, pressure is put on the back causing lower back pain.
Top Symptoms: back pain, lower back pain
Symptoms that always occur with back pain due to pregnancy: back pain
Symptoms that never occur with back pain due to pregnancy: fever
Back pain that shoots to the butt treatments and relief
As long as your back pain is not particularly severe, there are several methods you can try at home that may be effective. If you do not find relief or your symptoms worsen or persist, you should consult your physician.
There are various remedies for back pain that you can try at home.
- Rest: A moderate amount of rest is important with back injuries; however, prolonged or constant bedrest will weaken the muscles of the back.
- Change positions frequently: This includes sitting, standing, walking, and so on.
- Pain medication: You can try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
- Heat treatment: This helps address muscle spasms.
- Cold packs: This helps calm inflammation.
- Wear a back brace: This should only be used temporarily so that muscles are not weakened.
- Exercise: This will improve fitness and increase core (abdominal) strength so that the muscles can support the back.
- Lift weights the right way: This will protect the back from any further damage.
- Make lifestyle changes: Try to maintain proper weight, manage your stress, and stop smoking.
When to see a doctor
You should consult your physician in order to discuss the following options if your back pain worsens or persists. Together, you can decide what is best for you.
- Referral for physical therapy: This can include an exercise program, appropriate stretching, and therapeutic massage.
- Treatment of emotional conditions: Anxiety, depression, or insomnia can make any physical pain seem more intense. Sometimes antidepressant medication can reduce nerve pain.
- Treatment of night sweats and night pain: Most conditions are exacerbated by poor sleep and may also cause poor sleep.
- Procedures: You can discuss the benefit of steroid injections into the nerves of your back or possible surgery for ruptured discs.
When it is an emergency
If you have weakness or numbness in the legs and genital region or a loss of bladder or bowel control, seek immediate medical attention.
FAQs about back pain that shoots to the butt
Can an old back injury, even from years before, suddenly begin to cause shooting pain?
It's possible for an earlier injury to a vertebral disc — one of the "cushions" between the bones of the spine — to eventually deteriorate and rupture. The soft material within the disc is pressed out through the break in the disc's tough outer material, irritating the sciatic nerves and causing the shooting, radiating back pain.
Can arthritis or gout cause shooting back pain?
Arthritis means there is a loss of protective cartilage within a joint, causing the bones to rub together. Gout is a form of arthritis caused by mineral crystal deposits in the joint. Both are very painful, especially when found within the spinal column, but do not cause radiating or "shooting" back pain.
Can a spinal infection cause shooting back pain?
Almost never. An infection of any part of the spine — the discs, the vertebrae, or the membranous lining of the spinal canal — can be very painful, but the pain will be localized and does not radiate into the buttocks or legs. There will also be fever and chills, as with any other systemic infection. This requires immediate medical attention.
Can a hip injury cause shooting back pain?
Hip pain and back pain often overlap, since the pelvis (hip bone) is near the spine. A hip injury will cause pain in the groin rather than in the back. Shooting back pain is caused by compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve, which branches off of the spine very low in the back.
Why is inactivity bad for shooting, radiating back pain?
The sciatic nerves are actually bundles of many nerves branching out of the different levels of the spine and form two branches that run down each side of the low back. Lack of fitness creates weak, shortened muscles that press on the sciatic nerves and cause constant pain. Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles can be very helpful. Sitting for prolonged periods can also cause back pain to flare or worsen due to poor posture. Try to sit up straight with your shoulders back and your lower back supported with a special chair, a rolled towel, or pillow. You should also try to stand and stretch every so often.
Questions your doctor may ask about back pain that shoots to the butt
- Does your back pain radiate anywhere?
- Do you currently smoke?
- What is your body mass?
- Any fever today or during the last week?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Janeen has worked over eight years as a full-time medical transcriptionist, specializing in pain management and gynecologic oncology. She later began transcribing reports for hospital emergency rooms and acute care admissions. This background gave her a strong medical vocabulary as well as a heart for making medical information accessible to the average person, leading her to work as a medical writer. She began as a pre-veterinary medicine major at Texas State University.
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- Low back pain fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated August 7, 2018. NINDS Link
- Ma CB. Spinal stenosis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated January 16, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- Ma CB. Low back pain - acute. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated March 30, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- Park DK. Herniated disk in the lower back. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated June 2018. OrthoInfo Link
- 4 ways to turn good posture into less back pain. Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Health Publishing Link