When you think of sciatica, especially if you’ve ever experienced its debilitating pain, strong leg pain comes to mind. But, as with most conditions, there is a range of symptoms, and more than one cause of sciatica. The symptoms can range from localized pain in one or both buttock regions to excruciating pain all the way down the back of the leg to the foot. If the cause is structural a chiropractic adjustment can provide ready relief.
Let’s take a closer look at the varying forms of sciatica, its causes, and how chiropractic adjustments can help both with back pain relief and with correcting the root cause of the problem.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve, the longest and biggest nerve in the body – extending from the lower back all the way down to your toes.
The Many Faces of ‘Ouch’
What are the symptoms of sciatica? Irritation of the sciatic nerve can result in any number of symptoms including PAIN (of course), but also numbness, weakness, burning, or a more subtle sensation that’s not really pain and not really numbness, but just feels ‘odd’ or different.
Low back pain is common with sciatica, but is not always present. Whatever symptoms you do experience, their location may be only in the buttocks or they may travel all the way down the leg to the foot. The symptoms may be on one side or on both sides, and the intensity may be stronger on one side vs. the other. Interestingly the symptoms may also be found only in isolated body parts – such as the foot or calf only.
What Causes Sciatica?
There are three main causes of sciatica:
1. Because the sciatic nerve originates in the low back, one cause is impingement or pressure on one of the nerves forming (or contributing to) the sciatic nerve. Such nerve impingement can be from a malpositioned bone in your lower back or from a bulging disc.
2. A second location where the sciatic nerve can be irritated is in the pelvis at the sacroiliac joint. If you have ever fallen on your hip or pelvis; if you have ever broken a leg bone or had a major foot, ankle, knee or hip joint injury or surgery; if you have a muscle imbalance from performing a particular sport or activity – you may have a rotated pelvis which stresses a sacroiliac joint, and from there the sciatic nerve that runs right in front of it.
3. The third location where pressure can be put on the sciatic nerve is in the buttocks. There are many muscles located there and the sciatic nerve passes underneath these muscles- at least they are supposed to. In some unlucky people the sciatic nerve passes through a muscle called the piriformis muscle. So, if it contracts, it can actually pinch or ‘scissor’ the sciatic nerve. Simple actions such as pressing on the gas pedal while driving, can cause this muscle to contract thereby pressing on the sciatic nerve.
Heres What You Need To Know About Sciatica
When you are feeling the intense pain of sciatica, understandably all you want is for the pain to go away. At such moments there is a temptation to seek drugs – and the stronger the better. While prescription medication or some over-the-counter (OTC) pain meds or anti-inflammatory formulas may provide some temporary relief, we advocate treatment that gets to the source of the problem: a structural examination by a chiropractor that may include spinal x-rays,