Sciatica: The Basics

Sciatica refers to pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the leg.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. The nerve originates in the lower back, where its individual roots branch out and then combine to run through the buttock and down the back of the leg. Symptoms of sciatica occur when the sciatic nerve is irritated, compressed, or pinched at the lower back, its point or origin.

Sciatica itself is not a diagnosis. Rather, it is a symptom of an underlying condition or problem in the lower back. Most frequently, these include a herniated disk, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disk disease.

Some researchers have estimated sciatica to be so common that it can affect nearly 45 percent of the population.

Symptoms

Sciatica very rarely occurs in both legs. Therefore, pain that is constant in only one side of the buttock or leg is a significant indicator of sciatica. This pain can radiate down the entire leg. Other symptoms include:

  • Pain that worsens when sitting
  • A burning, tingling sensation
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Difficulty moving the leg, foot, or toes
  • Difficulty standing up or walking

Severity of symptoms can range from mild to debilitating. The exact location of your pain depends largely on which part of the nerve is pinched.

Although severe complications of sciatica are rare, it’s possible for untreated sciatica to lead to progressive neurological symptoms and dysfunction of the bowels and bladder.

Causes

Typically, sciatica is not caused by one particular injury or event. It tends to develop over time, and patients generally can’t pinpoint when the onset of symptoms occurred. The leading causes of sciatica are as follow:

  • Repetitive movement: Twisting your back repeatedly can play a large role in the development of sciatica. Additionally, experts believe that frequently carrying heavy objects and driving a car for an extended period of time can lead to sciatica.
  • Spinal tumors: As a tumor grows, it begins to compress the sciatic nerve.
  • Spondylolisthesis: Also referred to as a “slipped disk,” spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra shifts forward. When this occurs in the lower back, symptoms of sciatica occur.
  • Degenerative disk disease: Degenerative disk disease can occur in any area of the spine. Your discs lose their flexibility and are therefore no longer capable of cushioning the spine properly or repairing themselves easily.
  • Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis causes the spinal nerve roots to become compressed.
  • Herniated disk: With you have a herniated disk, inflammatory proteins leak out and can aggravate the roots of the sciatic nerve.
  • Bone spur on vertebrae: Bone spurs can rub against each other and cause abnormal bone growths.
  • Infection: Although a rare cause, an infection in the lower back can damage the sciatic nerve root.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Those around 40-50 years old are most likely to develop sciatica.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts excessive stress on your spine which can contribute to spinal changes.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases your risk of nerve damage in general.
  • Pregnancy: Because of weight gain and increased fluid retention, pressure on the sciatic nerve is increased during pregnancy. Additionally, the expanding uterus may press down on the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Symptoms are most likely to occur during the third trimester.
  • Lifestyle: Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are likely to develop sciatica. However, an extremely active lifestyle can also be a risk factor. Runner often experience sciatica because of the repetitive muscle contractions in the hip.
  • Occupation: Those who spend the majority of their work day sitting down are likely to experience symptoms, as structures of the lower back tend to slowly deform. Poor posture further adds to the risk.

Evaluation

Since there are numerous disorders that can cause sciatica symptoms, forming a diagnosis is crucial. Typically this will involve a review of the patient’s medical history as long as a thorough physical and neurological examination. Diagnostic testing such as x-rays, MRI’s, and CT scans may be used to detect possible issues and rule others out.

If you’re looking for a safe, natural, drug-free way to relieve your pain, chiropractic care is your best bet.

Dr. Michele Moore

Treatment

The ultimate goal of chiropractic treatment is to assist the body in healing itself. A non-invasive and drug-free treatment option, your chiropractor will use a variety of methods including spinal manipulations. When the spine is adjusted by a chiropractor, misaligned vertebral bodies are re-aligned, returning to their proper place in the spinal column. These adjustments, also referred to as manipulations, also help to relieve nerve irritability, which therefore improves inflammation, spasms, and pain.

The majority of sciatica sufferers report a huge improvement in pain after chiropractic care.

In a study conducted by the Palmer Center for Chiropractic Research, 73 percent of patients who received both standard and chiropractic care rated their improvement as “moderately better, “much better, “ and “completely gone.” Only 17 percent of those who received only standard care reported such improvement.

Additionally, European Spine Journal published their findings of a recent clinical trial, revealing that chiropractic adjustments led to a 72 percent success rate in treating sciatica, compared to a 50 percent success rate from corticosteroid injections.

Another study, published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics revealed that a higher proportion of patients under chiropractic care reported their sciatica as either better or much better. In comparison, nearly a third of the patients receiving standard medical treatment reported their pain as either worse or much worse.

If you are suffering from sciatica in Austin, the Moore Chiropractic Health Care Center of Austin can help to alleviate your pain. Dr. Moore may utilize ice/cold therapy, chiropractic adjustments, home exercises, and possibly recomend massage therapy treatment as well. Gentle movement such as stretches and low-impact aerobic exercises, when paired with regular visits, can greatly help the body heal itself. Many times, for maintenance, these exercises are continued even after the sciatica is treated. Dr. Moore will develop a personalized treatment plan to help get you out of pain as soon as possible and stay pain free. Please give us a call today at (512) 459-5523 to get rapid and long term pain relief from sciatica.

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