Sciatica refers to the body’s largest nerve & occurs when it is pinched or irritated. Learn how Chiropractic treatments relieve muscles pinching the nerve.
Sciatica's Causes and Telltale Signs
Sciatica is a term used to describe nerve pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest bundle of nerves in the human body. The sciatic nerve is located in the back of the pelvis, usually at the base of the spine, but also in the hips, legs, ankles, knees, and ankles. It extends from the lower back to the buttocks and legs and helps to communicate with the leg muscles. Sciatica pain can occur when the sciatic nerve is pinched or jammed, when there is a herniated disc or an injury to the spinal cord. The pain originates from the sciatic nerve and branches out from the lower back into the hips, buttocks, and legs. Less often, the nerve can be compressed by a tumor or damaged by diseases such as diabetes.
The pain can vary widely, from mild to sharp, from burning to excruciating, and sometimes you can feel convulsions or electric shocks. It can get worse with coughing or sneezing and sitting for long periods. Typically, it affects only one side of the body, but it can also be on both sides. The resulting imbalance due to altered muscle function in the legs can contribute to pain and tightness elsewhere in the body, such as the neck and upper back.
It is most common when a herniated disc occurs in the spine, and compresses/pinches part of this nerve. It is particularly likely that it follows a path that runs from the lower back to the buttocks, back, thighs, and calves. Discomfort can be felt almost everywhere along this nerve pathway, and pain in hips, legs, and feet are the hallmarks of sciatica. Although the pain associated with sciatica can be very severe, most cases resolve themselves with non-surgical treatment. The surgical intervention for sciatica may lead to a long-term history of pain, fatigue, muscle, and stiffness, as well as a loss of muscle coordination.
Sciatica's Causes and Telltale Signs
Sciatica can be caused by several reasons, including herniated discs or bulging discs in the spine, back pain, and lower back pain, impingement of the body’s largest nerve. The sciatic nerve is a thick, cable-like nerve issuing from several lumbar and sacral nerve roots. This nerve passes through the piriformis (a muscle in the buttocks) and down the back of the leg, branching along the way into all the smaller nerves that route impulses and sensations through the leg, ankle, foot, and toes.
These nerves control the leg, calf, and foot muscles and are responsible for bending the knee, and curling or lengthening the toes. These nerves unite into a single nerve sheath that extends from the buttocks, thighs, and back to the knees before splitting off and becoming larger, longer, and wider nerves throughout the body.
Big nerves can create big problems. When the nerve or any of its nerve roots is pinched or otherwise interfered with, it can throw out all kinds of faulty, incomplete, and/or disturbing signals at any point along with its neural network. Herniated and bulging discs are often the cause of the impingement, along with spinal stenosis (spinal canal narrowing) or simple spinal misalignment caused by poor posture or weak muscle support. Your symptoms may get worse when you sit down, cough or sneeze. Unbalanced posture can also cause the piriformis muscle to go into spasm, which in turn pinches the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve also contributes to pain in the lower back, hip, legs, ankles, knees, and feet. Common symptoms include back pain, fatigue, muscle, and joint pain. Pregnancy is also a common cause of sciatica pain and can cause secondary symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. The pain is often described as burning, tingling, or numbness, and it can be difficult to find a position that relieves the pain.
Sciatica symptoms, which may vary depending on the point of impingement, include:
Sharp, burning, or “electric” pain sensations running through the buttock or leg
Lower back pain
Tingling or loss of sensation in the leg or foot
Problems with leg/foot muscle control
Sciatica usually affects one leg; both legs are rarely affected together. Mild sciatica usually disappears over time, but some people also have severe symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle cramps, and muscle pain. Sciatica pain is typically experienced as a constant burning or pain that starts in the lower back or buttocks and can be accompanied by numbness in the back and legs.
Sometimes tingling or weakness may also occur, but the symptoms of sciatica disease are often seen along the pathways in and around the sciatic nerve. Symptoms can worsen when you sit down, bend your spine, or when you bend forward, and it can be alleviated with various therapies such as stretching therapy to the back of the pelvis or by other therapies or acupuncture. If self-sufficiency does not relieve symptoms and the pain lasts for more than a week, you may need to see a doctor or a physiotherapist.
The piriformis muscle is the largest muscle within the buttocks and contributes to the movement of the lower back and pelvic muscles. The pelvis and hip are fixed in such a way that the hip turns outwards and the lower back inwards in order to react to the movement of the pelvic muscles. Sciatica and piriformis syndrome often do not disappear quickly, and to achieve lasting improvement, several chiropractic treatments over several weeks are often required.
The most common cause of Piriformis syndrome is usually sitting in a cross-legged position or prolonged sitting with poor posture and ergonomics. Chiropractic services are an effective treatment for this as it includes stretching the muscles of the lower back, hip, and pelvis. In some cases, it can also cause muscle pain and even muscle spasms, but the most common is the muscle trauma that occurs in some parts of the body due to the use of the joint In the timeline of healing tissues of the body, the nerves heal slowly, and the muscles in the lower back, hip, and pelvis stretch slowly.
Sciatica is diagnosed by assessing the combination of symptoms, medical history, and orthopedic tests. Depending on the result of the diagnosis, treatments may involve strengthening the lower back, abdominal and gluteal muscles, as well as a variety of exercises. Frequently, acupuncture and manual therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and other techniques are also used.
Chiropractic Care for Sciatica
When one-quarter of your body simply fails to work as it should, creating discomfort, you’re facing a serious threat to your quality of life —the same threat faced by countless other individuals suffering from sciatica.
Chiropractic care can help the body heal itself by allowing the sciatic nerve to communicate freely with the lower half of the body. You can also feel the results of dysfunction of the sciatic nerve in other areas such as the neck, shoulders, hips, legs, knees, ankles, feet, arms, hands, and feet.
However, the success of chiropractic treatment depends on the patient’s pain and nerve damage. In severe cases, patients may want to try other treatments such as acupuncture, traction, or manual therapy, as well as physical therapy.
Conservative Treatment Solutions
Sciatica tends to come and go, but it won’t go away until you find and correct what’s causing it. Fortunately, as many as 90 percent of sciatica cases don’t require surgery. Our chiropractors, Dr. Mark J. Freund and Dr. Gopaul, can evaluate your spinal alignment and diagnose disc problems, degenerative spinal conditions, subluxation, or other underlying causes of sciatic nerve impingement. We can then treat your condition with:
Chiropractic adjustments to restore normal spinal and disc alignment, taking pressure off the nerve roots
Manual therapy to relieve muscles spasms that may be pinching the sciatic nerve
Physical therapy to help you strengthen the muscles that support good spinal alignment
Lifestyle advice such as workplace ergonomics to help you maintain optimal posture all day long