5 Signs You May Have Sciatica
The Sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the body. It can be as wide as the little finger and as long as 3 feet in length. It is made up of many nerves that arise from the nerve roots of L4 - L5 in the low back, and sacral nerves 1 – 3. These nerves come together to make the sciatic nerve in the glutes and extends all the way down the leg until it splits at the knee.
There are many causes for sciatic nerve pain, which can last up to 4 – 8 weeks if left untreated. Approximately 1 – 10% of the population experience sciatic pain or sciatica at some point in their life and are typically between the ages of 25 – 45 years old. Chronic sciatic pain can stand in the way of performing daily activities, enjoying loved ones or recreational activities. It can also interfere with the ability to perform work duties.
Symptoms of sciatic pain can include:
- Burning in the Buttock, Hip, or Thigh
- Sharp pain in the Buttock or down the leg
- Nerve pain that 'shoots' down the leg into the knee or calf
- Numbness in the leg or foot
- Muscle weakness in the leg or foot
What is causing my Sciatica?
According to an article published by the NIH, approximately 90% of all cases of sciatica come from disc herniation. A herniated disc can occur at any level of the spine (neck, mid back, or low back) and can be due to:
- Poor Posture that causes compression resulting in degeneration
- Injuries that usually involve twisting or bending
- Health conditions such as osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis that causes degeneration
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Sport related injuries
The spinal discs are made up of a type of connective tissue called fibro-cartilage, or annulus fibrosis. This dense, thick tissue acts as a shock absorber, allows freedom of movement in the spine, and protects the jelly-like center called the annulus pulposus or nucleus.
With these factors present, the disc can become compressed or dehydrated over time and cause the durable fibrocartilage to tear. If a tear or ‘herniation’ in the disc occurs, it will allow the soft jelly center to spill out into the surrounding structure, potentially compressing nerve roots. If a disc herniation occurs in the low back it can compress nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve, causing symptoms.
Treatment options for sciatica may include:
- Chiropractic Manipulation
- Heat & Ice
- Stretches & Exercise
- Manual Therapy or Massage
- Electrical Muscle Stimulation
Although the majority of sciatic symptoms arise from spinal disc issues, there are other factors that can cause radiating pain down the leg. Decreased activity, increased amounts of sitting, or commuting can sometimes cause muscles to become short or spasm. In the case of sciatic pain, the muscle piriformis is typically the culprit. This muscle found in the glute can become tight and compress the large sciatic nerve that runs behind it, causing pain.
However, because 90% of sciatic issues arise from spinal disc issues, treatments that target the root of the cause of sciatica should be addressed.
Another Option for Sciatica
At Forever Well Chiropractic, we have seen great success using such modalities as chiropractic manipulation, muscle stimulation, and strengthening. However, each individual is different, and responds differently with treatment, which is why we have armed ourselves with another treatment option – non-surgical spinal decompression therapy.
Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression is a procedure where the patient is put on a mechanical table. The patient is ‘strapped in’ according to the affected area. In cases of sciatica, the lumbar or low back region is targeted. During the procedure, the table cycles between decompression and relaxation. Decompression creates a vacuum or “negative pressure” within the joint, pulling in essential fluid to promote proper hydration of the spinal disc, whilst increasing disc space and decreasing pressure on the affected spinal nerve roots.
Spinal decompression may also help re-position or pull the nucleus back into the fibro-cartilage. By increasing space between the vertebrae where the nerves exit, and bringing the nucleus within the boundary of the disc cartilage, it may reduce pressure on the nerves that cause sciatica.
Don’t Ignore the Signs
If you’re experiencing symptoms of sciatic pain, don’t ignore the signs. We welcome you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Haywood who will get your history of pain and first determine if chiropractic treatment is right for you. From there, we can develop a treatment plan to not only get relief but also improve the root of the problem.