What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to back pain caused by a problem with the sciatic nerve, which is a large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. When this nerve is injured or pressure is applied to it, it can cause pain in the lower back radiating to the hip, buttocks and one or both legs.
How do I know if I have Sciatica?
Sciatica is characterized by pain in the lower back that continues down one or both legs. This pain is described as dull, achy, sharp, “like pins and needles”, or a pain similar to electric shocks. Other symptoms associated with sciatica include burning, numbness and tingling sensations. Sciatic nerve pain varies in intensity and frequency. The onset is generally gradual and not necessarily associated with a preceding event. Sciatica is also known as radiating or referred pain, neuropathy, or neuralgia.
What causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is usually caused by sciatic nerve compression. This compression can happen for a variety of reasons such as lumbar spine subluxation (misaligned vertebrae), herniated or bulging discs, pregnancy and childbirth, tumors, diabetes, and/or additional diagnosed medical conditions.
Another common cause of sciatica is piriformis syndrome. This condition is named after the piriformis muscles that are located in the lower part of the spine which connect to the thigh bone and assist in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve runs beneath the piriformis muscle and is prone to injury from a slip and fall incident, hip arthritis, or a difference in leg length. It is common for cramping and spasms to develop in the piriformis muscle, pinching the sciatic nerve and causing inflammation and pain. Sciatic nerve compression may result in the loss of feeling (sensory loss), paralysis of a single limb or group of muscles (monoplegia), and insomnia.
How do you diagnose Sciatica?
I have a great deal of experience working with patients suffering from sciatic pain. Because there are many disorders that cause sciatica, I will determine what is the root cause of your sciatica by taking a thorough patient history, physical, and neurological exam. In some instances, diagnostic testing might be necessary such as an x-ray, MRI, CT scan and/or electrodiagnostic test (electromyography). These examinations and tests help to detect possible contraindications to spinal adjustments and other chiropractic therapies.
How is Sciatica treated?
The care at my practice is non-invasive (non-surgical) and drug-free. The purpose of chiropractic treatment is to stimulate and promote the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Restricted spinal movement leads to pain and reduced function and performance, and I base my treatment on the principle that chiropractic adjustment can help relieve this pain by freeing spinal movement. Your individualized treatment plan will depend on my evaluation during your initial visit. Your therapy may include several different chiropractic modalities listed below:
– Ice/Cold Therapies: An ice pack may be applied to the lower back for 15 minutes every few hours to help reduce associated muscle pain, muscle spasm and sciatic nerve inflammation. It is important to wrap a thin towel around the ice pack to avoid putting the cold pack directly on the skin.
– Ultrasound: a gentle heat created by sound waves that penetrates deep into tissues. Ultrasound increases circulation and helps to reduce muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, stiffness and pain.
– TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): a small box-like, battery- powered, portable muscle stimulation machine. It offers variable intensities of electrical current to control acute pain and reduce muscle spasms. The larger versions of the TENS units are used by chiropractors, physical therapists and other rehab professionals.
– Spinal adjustments (spinal manipulation): Spinal adjustments free restricted movement of the spine and help restore misaligned vertebrae to their proper position. Adjustments also help reduce nerve irritability responsible for causing inflammation, muscle spasms, pain and other symptoms related to sciatica. Spinal manipulation is proven to be safe, effective and pain-free. This type of therapy sets chiropractors apart in the medical community.
– Stretching/exercise: It is beneficial to gently stretch the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles to help assist optimal biomechanical functioning to the trunk and legs. Walking and riding a stationary bike are gentle exercises that will similarly assist in the recovery process.