SCIATICA / SCIATIC NERVE PAIN
If you’re worried about your sciatica, you’ve come to the right place. And there’s good news: sciatica is fixable.
Sciatica is painful and scary. You think you’re going to have it forever. It affects every part of your life. You worry you might have to have surgery.
Different from “back pain,” which patients can usually pin point, sciatica symptoms vary widely—and often fluctuate in level of intensity depending on activity. It’s pain that’s hard to define. And it’s often dismissed as a symptom of age, or the result of moving incorrectly.
We’ve heard patients say they used to enjoy taking long walks but now they can’t because of numbness in their leg. Or they might say they feel depressed because they can’t exercise. They can’t exercise because they can’t bend down the way they used to. They know something’s wrong, but aren’t sure what.
They’re scared of what else they’ll lose if it doesn’t get better.
I’m glad that concern brings them in, because if sciatica isn’t treated, the damage can be irreversible.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica refers to pressure on the sciatic nerve. Literally, it’s a “compressed” sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve itself is a bundle of smaller nerves. Four feeder nerves exit both the right and left side of the L4 and L5 vertebrae, and then they join to form the larger sciatic nerve. This is the largest nerve that feeds the lower part of the body.
What causes sciatica?
But what causes something to put pressure on the nerve? Compression of the sciatic nerve is almost always caused from a misaligned bone in the spine.
When the bones of the spine shift, they can pinch those tiny feeder nerves. This “short circuits” nerve communication and causes pain in the lower back and hip area, gluts, and down the back of the leg.
A secondary effect of a misaligned spine is that the shifted bones will squeeze against the disk that acts as a cushion between the bones. Over time, they squeeze the disk enough until it bulges out from between the vertebrae. That bulging, or herniated, disk can press against one of the small root nerves that leads to the sciatic nerve. That creates symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and even searing heat.
Whether it’s the bulging disk causing sciatic pain or the vertebrae itself putting pressure on the nerve, one thing remains the same; in both cases pain is present because of a misalignment in the spine.
Sciatica is often misdiagnosed as hip pain, lower back pain, bursitis, or piriformis syndrome. A misdiagnosis can lead to improper treatment. Stretches or exercises are often prescribed that actually worsen or prolong the condition! Sometimes, it’s as I’ve stated above, the pain is ignored because people accept pain as a normal part of live. But eventually symptoms worsen, forcing a doctor’s visit to get relief.
Can a chiropractor help sciatica?
Most sciatica is caused by structural problems in the spine that damage or herniate one or more of the discs between your vertebrae. When the vertebrae in the lower part of your spine get misaligned, that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Only about 10 percent of the nerves in your body feel pain, and the sciatic nerve is one of them. It’s the biggest nerve in your body and it feels pain in a big way.
There are a couple simple tests we need to do to figure out if your sciatica is a structural chiropractic problem. If it is, that’s good news for you. It’s a relatively easy fix. With careful, specific adjustments to the lower part of your spine, we can eliminate your sciatic pain completely.
There are other ways to deal with sciatica, such as stretching, medication, or even surgery. Some people choose to muscle through the pain and just wait for sciatica to go away. The problem with these approaches is that they do nothing to correct the underlying problem. So your sciatica will almost certainly come back.
Obviously, you want to get rid of the symptoms. But let’s do that AND fix the underlying problem.