Sciatica pain is a common condition that affects millions of people every year. Sciatica is characterized by pain the originates from the sciatic nerve in your lower back and down to your leg. For many, the pain can be excruciating and even make sitting or standing difficult. Sciatica can vary in intensity and frequency and the pain can be described as dull, achy, sharp, toothache-like, pins and needles, or a burning sensation.
The Sciatic Nerve
Sciatica refers to pain along the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body, that continues through a bundle of nerves that begin in the lower spine and travel down the back of each leg to the feet. The sciatic nerve provides strength and sensation to the legs as it connects major muscles to the spinal cord.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain caused by irritation or compression along your sciatic nerve. There is a misconception that sciatica is a nerve disorder on its own. However, it is a symptom of an underlying cause. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back, continues to the buttocks, and then down each leg to the toes, so pain may be felt anywhere along the nerve. It can develop gradually or develop suddenly.
Symptoms can vary in intensity and frequency with sciatica. Some sciatica symptoms include:
- Sharp shooting pain in the leg that may worsen while sitting
- Burning or tingling along the leg
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg
- Dull aches
- Pain when standing
- Posture induced pain
Sciatica usually only affects one side of the body. Often, the pain will travel from the lower back down to the toes.
It is also important to note that not all pain in the leg or lower back is related to sciatica.
Sciatica is generally caused by sciatic nerve compression, spinal disorders, impairments, or misalignments. Other causes may include:
- Pinched nerve– may affect several spinal nerves causing your sciatic nerve to become inflamed
- Herniated or slipped disc– can cause pressure and compress nerves
- Piriformis Syndrome– when the piriformis muscle (within the buttocks) becomes tight or spasms irritating your sciatic nerve
- Lumbar degenerative disease– a degenerative disease that affects the cushion of the vertebrae
- Spinal stenosis– a condition of narrowing at the spinal cord creating more pressure on your nerves
- Spondylolistheses– the slippage of vertebrae lead to misalignment and misplacing pressure along your nerves
Additional irritants such as excess weight, lack of regular exercise, improper footwear, poor position, and occupation may play a factor in the development of sciatica. Those who struggle with diabetes may also have an increased chance of forming sciatica due to nerve damage.
Whenever possible, it is always a good idea to opt for a more conservative, non-invasive treatment. Chiropractic care can offer you that as the purpose of chiropractic treatment is to help the body heal itself without surgery or medication. Chiropractic care will aim to realign the spine and take the pressure off the sciatic nerve for immediate pain relief. Your body will then begin to heal itself once the pressure is removed.
Treatment may also combine several methods such as cold therapies, ultrasound, TENs, physical therapy, and spinal adjustments.
- Cold therapy– uses cold materials and substances to reduce inflammation and control pain
- Ultrasound– produces gentle heat created by soundwaves that penetrate deep into soft tissues such as muscles. Ultrasounds increase circulation and help to reduce muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, and stiffness.
- TENs– refers to electric nerve stimulation. Its controlled electrical current allows for pain relief and reduction in spasms.
- Physical therapy– strengthening exercises help to relieve pressure, improve the flexibility of tight muscles, and strengthen the muscles of your back, abdomen, and legs.
- Spinal adjustments– Chiropractic manipulation can free restricted movement in the spine and restores misaligned bodies to their proper position allowing for full range of movement and comfort. Spinal adjustments reduce nerve irritability that is responsible for inflammation, pain, and other symptoms related to sciatica.
Chiropractic care aims to realign the spine to promote overall health and wellbeing throughout the body. Our care can offer relief at the source of your pain and treat your symptoms without any invasive procedures or strong medication. For more information on how we can help you with your sciatica, contact LifeQuest Physical Medicine and Rehab today!