What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower extremities and it can cause pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in the hip, buttock, leg, calf, and feet. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerves in human body. It runs from the spinal column near the pelvis down each leg and can be as wide as your thumb.
Each sciatic nerve is made up of five smaller nerves that branch into the thigh, knee, calf, ankle, and foot. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed, irritated, or inflamed.
It can be one of the most painful, and persistent conditions known to mankind. It often starts without warning, and gets worse over time. Once you experience sciatic pain a few times, there is a good chance that your condition will become chronic – and sciatica will flare-up nearly every time you ‘move the wrong way’ or pull a muscle.
What are the symptoms of Sciatica?
The irritation of the sciatic nerve can result in any number of symptoms including leg pain, which might feel like a bad leg cramp, or it can be excruciating, shooting pain that makes standing or sitting nearly impossible.
The pain usually gets worse when you sit, sneeze, or cough. It can also result in numbness, weakness, a burning or tingling (“pins and needles”) sensation down your leg, or a more subtle sensation that’s not really pain and not really numbness, but just feels ‘odd’ and different.
Commonly pain and numbness are located at the calf, foot, or back of the thigh. This is usually preceded for a few weeks by lower back pain. Eventually the leg pain becomes worse than the back pain. Pain can either be dull and aching or can be a shooting pain down the leg all the way to the toes. It can last for several days or weeks or it can subside for even a few hours.
Sciatica can occur suddenly or it can develop gradually. The symptoms may be on one side or on both sides, and the intensity may be stronger on one side vs. the other. Low back pain is common with sciatica, but is not always present. The symptoms may also be found only in isolated body parts – such as the foot or calf only. Less common symptoms might include the inability to bend your knee or move your foot and toes.
What causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is most commonly a result of a misaligned lower spine that is pinching the root of the sciatic nerve. This subluxation can apply a good deal of pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause severe pain. A faulty pelvic alignment could put the gluteal muscles under duress and the sciatic nerve will be pinched as it passes through the buttocks.
A slipped or herniated disc is another cause of sciatica and is usually a result of trauma from a fall or accident. Less commonly noted causes would include arthritis, tumors, diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and any degeneration as a result of a long-term stress on the lower back.
Often traumatic events are not the cause of sciatica. Standing, sitting, walking, running, heavy lifting, bending, twisting, or even sneezing can bring on symptoms.
Can sciatica be prevented?
Some sources of sciatica are not preventable, such as degenerative disc disease, back strain due to pregnancy, and accidental falls.
Although it might not be possible to prevent all cases of sciatica, you can take steps to protect your back and reduce your risk.
- Practice proper lifting techniques. Lift with your back straight, bringing yourself up with your hips and legs, and holding the object close to your chest. Use this technique for lifting everything, no matter how light.
- Avoid/ stop cigarette smoking, which promotes disc degeneration.
- Exercise regularly to strengthen the muscles of your back and abdomen, which work to support your spine.
- Use good posture when sitting, standing, and sleeping. Good posture helps to relieve the pressure on your lower back.
- Avoid sitting for long periods.
ChiroMax Wellness Centers Can Help!
Many times people with sciatica wait until the pain becomes unbearable before they contact the doctor. Waiting can cause long-term damage. It is important that you contact us when the pain originally begins. A number of sciatica treatments (which does not include surgery or medications) can be prescribed to help with the pain and numbness caused by sciatica.
The first thing we do is review your complete medical history including a review of your symptoms to determine when the problem began and the possible causes. Then a complete physical exam is performed, and x-rays may be taken. We will then review and discuss the results with you and make recommendations for sciatica treatment.
Many times we will find the source of the nerve blockage and use manual adjustments to correct the spinal misalignment. The adjustments are designed to remove the blockage that is pinching the sciatic nerve and causing the pain.
Our main goal at ChiroMax Wellness Centers, when treating sciatica patients is to decrease pain and increase mobility. Treatment most often includes limited rest (on a firm mattress or on the floor), exercises to strengthen the muscles of your back, abdomen, and legs, and a customized physical therapy program.
Physical therapy may be used to reduce muscle spasms and to reduce pressure on the nerve. Ultrasound and ice therapies are also used to relieve the symptoms of sciatica. In most cases an acupuncture therapy may also improve sciatica. Massage therapy may help muscle spasms that often occur along with sciatica.
Pain medications merely mask the symptoms and never heal the cause, and surgery should always be the last resort. In most cases of patients who have received spinal manipulations, x-rays taken after sciatica treatment have shown improvement in the spinal alignment as well as a reduction of symptoms.
If you’ve been struggling with sciatica, ChiroMax Wellness Centers can help. To see one of our skilled doctors and to get your initial consultation, please call us at:
(713) 691-8355 (I-45 Location) or
(713) 222-6374 (I-10 Location)
and schedule an appointment. We are dedicated to getting you out of pain and back to feeling good again. Most forms of insurance accepted.