Sciatica is a common complaint that many patients describe having. The term is used often without much greater understanding than simply meaning “I have shooting pain in my low back and/or legs). The sciatic nerve is the thickest and largest nerve in the body and is actually made up of several branches of nerve roots that exit the lumbar spine (low back). The sciatic nerve travels though the pelvis and down the back of the leg towards the foot. The nerve functions to allow specific muscle movement, the sensation of touch, heat, cold, pain and vibration in specifically mapped out areas of the body. When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated the result is sciatica which can be felt as numbness, tingling, sharp/ shooting pain or as a burning sensation. The sciatic nerve is much like the cord that comes out of a table light. If the electrical cord is damaged then the electrical signal has a difficult time getting to the light bulb and as a result the light will either flicker or not come on at all.
When people complain of sciatica they often have a good sense of what the feeling is, but little understanding of what can cause it. Here are the three main cuases for sciatica 1) Disc bulge/ herniation in the low back that is putting pressure on the spinal cord and thus affecting the nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve, 2) Osteoarthritis in the lumbar spine, which means the vertebrae/ bones are closer together as a result of age related changes in the back and this narrows the path that the nerve roots have as they go about thier normal route of exiting the spine 3) Muscles contraction: from muscles such as the piriformis that lie in close proximity to the sciatic nerve and can contract and squeeze on the sciatic nerve as it traverses through the pelvis (there is a small percentage of people where the sciatic nerve actually goes directly through the piriformis thus lending it more likely to this type of irritation).
Knowing the cause of sciatica is half the battle as the next step is to decide what treatment options are available and how to monitor care to be sure that treatment is helping. To have a healthy feeling back one must have proper joint movement, adequate strength for postures and activity and adequate flexibility. Chiropractic is meant to help with all three of these areas and is an ideal place to start when dealing with sciatica. Many patients once they have retrained the movement in the joints of the back and have begun strengthening and stretching the area will have substantial relief. The key is diagnosis as treating a patient with sciatica that is caused by osteoarthritis will have differences versus a disk herniation or muscle contraction on the nerve.
To learn more about how chiropractic works as a way to help with issues such as sciatica please watch more my next blog post!
If you have any questions in regards to treating sciatica please feel free to contact me directly or send your feedback and thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org