Sciatica is one of the most common causes of low back pain. It can also be one of the most confusing because people don’t understand what it is and what causes it. Is it a pinched nerve? A slipped disc?
If you suffer from sciatica, you need to know what it is and how you can treat it. Read on to learn more about this common, painful condition.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a clinical syndrome caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is most often described as a pain in the buttock and lower back that radiates down the leg.
The sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body. It originates in the lower spinal cord and runs down through the buttocks and into each leg via a long tunnel called the “sacral plexus.” The sciatic nerve supplies feeling to the legs and feet and controls muscle movement in these areas.
The sciatic nerve is composed of many smaller nerves bundled together, each with its own function. The sciatic nerve itself sends signals from your brain to your legs and feet, telling you how to move them. The other nerves send information from your legs and feet back up through the sciatic nerve to your brain.
The sciatic nerve is made up of five different nerves of the lumbar and sacral spine that run alongside each other through your buttock and down each leg: L4 – L5 – S1 – S2 – S3
Therefore, if lumbar disc herniation occurs at L4-L5, this puts pressure on all of these nerves, causing sciatica-type symptoms. The exact cause of sciatica isn’t known, but several factors can trigger this condition.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
Symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain that travels down one or both legs
- Pain that radiates from the back, lower back, or hip area to the leg(s)
- Numbness on one or both sides of the leg(s)
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Pain that increases when sitting and decreases when standing
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica can be caused by disc herniation, spinal stenosis, spinal fracture, piriformis syndrome, osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis), spondylolisthesis, etc.
The following are common causes of sciatica:
Herniated disc. The most common cause of sciatica is a “slipped disc,” or a disc that’s bulging out from between two vertebrae. The disc may be pinching the sciatic nerve, causing pain, tingling, and numbness in the legs.
Spinal stenosis. This condition happens when pieces of bone grow together to form a blockage in part of your spine. This can pinch your spinal cord or its covering of spinal fluid, which causes leg pain. Sciatica is one symptom of this problem.
Aging. Our spinal discs become less flexible and more prone to injury or disease as we age. A less flexible spine means it takes longer for your body to recover after sitting or standing for an extended period.
Scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves abnormally sideways or backward. It may contribute to sciatica when spinal stenosis or another condition compresses the spinous process at L4-L5 and L5-S1 and irritates the root nerves by pressing on them from behind.
What can I do to avoid developing sciatica?
To prevent sciatica before it begins to form, pay attention to your posture and ensure your spine is correctly aligned with no excessive curvature. Chiropractors work with patients to maintain this alignment to avoid potential pain.
Exercise regularly and stretch all the muscle groups in your body. Stretching will improve your flexibility and help you avoid placing too much stress on any one part of your body because of stiffness.
How do chiropractors treat sciatica?
Treatment for sciatica varies depending on its cause. A chiropractor can evaluate your condition and recommend specific treatment options to restore range of motion, reduce inflammation and improve muscle strength to eliminate pressure on the nerve.
Treating sciatica is often challenging because it can be difficult to determine the exact location where the problem originates. A chiropractor will usually begin with spinal adjustment to help correct the misalignment that’s causing your sciatica. This may be a simple adjustment or involve manipulation using various instruments such as an activator or a drop table.
Your chiropractor may also prescribe exercises to help strengthen and loosen the legs and back muscles. Many manipulation techniques, such as joint mobilizations and myofascial release techniques, can help relieve your pain.
Depending on what’s causing your sciatica, your chiropractor may also recommend other therapies such as physical therapy or traction to relieve symptoms and help you avoid surgery. Since everyone’s sciatic pain is different, each patient needs a customized treatment plan to achieve the best possible results.
Kim Chiropractic Can Alleviate Your Sciatica Pain
At Kim Chiropractic, we have medical equipment that can help with treatment such as the DRX 9000™ Decompression Therapy for low back and sciatica pain patients. Non-surgical spinal decompression is a clinically proven treatment for individuals experiencing lower back and sciatic pain caused by bulging or herniated discs.
Sciatica is a common condition, but you don’t have to live with the pain. Contact us to schedule a consultation to get you on the path to feeling better. We look forward to being a part of your recovery.