If you’ve ever fallen to your knees in pain because of sciatica, you know how scary it can be. Pain that locks up your low back and travels down your leg after sneezing, coughing, or bending over is one of the least welcomed surprises you can experience in your life.
What is the Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. The sciatic nerve’s purpose is to provide a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot. It provides motor and sensory functions through each leg. However, when the sciatic nerve is being pinched or inhibited, it negatively impacts the function and may even become debilitating.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatic pain, often referred to as sciatica, is caused when a spinal disc, excess bone, or overgrown ligaments begin to pinch the nerves in your low back that travel down your buttocks and legs all the way to your feet. For most people, the pain from sciatica can be severe and debilitating. For others, the pain might be infrequent and irritating, but has the potential to get worse.
You may be surprised to learn that spinal disc bulges and herniations are quite common as we get older, and a majority of the time, they don’t cause any pain. in fact, it’s fairly common that most of us can and may have various spinal disc issues that aren’t causing any pain. However, if a nerve is pinched, the body is sure to set off a signal about it with a jolt of radiating pain.
Symptoms May Include:
- Pain the buttocks and/or leg that is worse when sitting
- Burning and/or tingling down the leg
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A constant pain on one side of the buttocks
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
It may seem like the only way to “take care” of a bulged or herniated disc is by cutting it out with surgery, but that’s not the case. The best way to treat sciatica is with through evidence-based, conservative treatment options such as chiropractic care and physical therapy rehab.
Stretching, exercise, and spinal adjustments have all been shown to be extremely effective at reducing the pain associated with sciatica because they reduce the pinching (or compression) on your spinal nerves.
- Controlled movement of your spinal joints can help reduce the inflammation and pain.
- Surgery is a last resort, and it’s estimated that less than 5% of people with sciatica are good candidates for surgical intervention.
- A recent study found that people with lumbar disc herniations had more relief (over 60%) with spinal adjustments than with spinal injections.
Having sciatica doesn’t mean that you are destined for surgery. In fact, the majority of people with disc issues and sciatica can get well using chiropractic care. In our practice, we have seen numerous patients come in experiencing pain relief and after care have not had issues return.
- Minimize pressure on your low back by practicing good posture while standing and sitting.
- Maintain physical activity to reduce pressure from excess weight on nerves
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time
- Practice safe lifting techniques – use your legs instead of your back!
For more information on how to keep your spinal disc healthy and reduce the risk of sciatica from occurring, check out our blog on How To Keep Your Spinal Discs Healthy for our best tips to ensure a healthy spine!
Remember, your spine is resilient, your spinal discs can heal, and that we’re here to help!
Symptomatic MRI-Confirmed Lumbar Disk Herniation Patients: A Comparative Effectiveness Prospective Observational Study. JMPT. 2013.