Sciatica is a common condition that causes terrible pain and frustration. Our quality of life can be severely impacted by sciatic pain.
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.
I’ve had 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 aren’t sure what is wrong. They just know something is. And 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 Sciatia?
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 Sciatia?
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.
The Medical Response
Remember, sciatica, by definition, is compression of the sciatic nerve. The philosophy of medicine isn’t equipped to fix compressed nerves. Medicine simply doesn’t have an answer to the issue of pinched nerves or a bulging disk other than surgery. To avoid surgery for sciatica, physicians prescribe over-the-counter meds to reduce inflammation. If the pain doesn’t go away, they may recommend oral steroids or even steroid injections. Or maybe they’ll suggest physical therapy, knowing certain stretches help relieve the pain of sciatica.
But let’s think this through. We know sciatica is caused because a nerve is being compressed. How does covering up the pain release pressure from the nerve?
If all we do is treat the pain, the real problem continues to get worse. That’s going to lead to bigger problems. One of these “bigger problems” is degenerative arthritis. Arthritis will not only increase the pain, it will also radically reduce mobility.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a more permanent solution that can release the pressure from the nerve?
Yes, of course. And that’s what happens under structural chiropractic care.
How structural chiropractic care helps
When a patient comes to the office describing the symptoms of sciatica, I take an x-ray to see what’s going on in the L4/L5 region of the spine. I also want to see the pelvis bone and the sacroiliac (SI) joint so I know where the misalignment occurs.
Then, we adjust the spine to take pressure off the nerve. I’m not suggesting with one adjustment sciatica is cured. But I am saying that with a series of adjustments, we can realign the spine to its correct position. That means the nerves won’t be compressed. And they can heal.
Once the nerves are restored, the pain in the lower back, hips, glutes, and down the back of the leg is gone. You can get back to moving the way you should. And get back to doing the things you love-like exercising, playing with the kids, and being able to bend over and stand up without pain. You’ll probably even sleep better!
If you suspect you or someone you know could have sciatic pain, you don’t have to continue to suffer. Call our office at 919-794-4455 or click here to schedule an appointment now. We’ll take a look at what’s going on and see if natural chiropractic care can help relieve your sciatica.