What is sciatica?
Sciatica describes the pain experienced by a person who has one or more of their spinal nerve roots compressed. The pain is usually localized to the lower body, with sensations of pain and discomfort in the lower lumbar and lumbosacral regions of the body; these regions are innervated by the sciatic nerve, a long nerve that runs from the lower back down the leg. There are a number of causes for the compression of spinal nerve roots within the lower back that contribute to sciatica. Among these causes are degenerative disc disease, which is the breakdown of the cushions between the vertebrae of the spine; stenosis of the lumbar spine, which is the narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the nerves; and the rapid weight gain from pregnancy. For some people, sciatica can cause immediate, debilitating pain; for others, sciatica only presents an intermittent and irritating pain. Either way, it is important to address the causes of sciatica and to seek treatment so that symptoms do not worsen over time and to prevent loss of strength and function in the lower extremity.
Symptoms of sciatica
Sciatica is characterized by pain, tingling, and numbness starting in the lower back and sometimes extending through the back of the thigh compartment and down the knee and toes. Usually, pain from sciatica is localized to one side of the body or the other. Depending on the case, the symptoms will vary. The most common symptoms are a feeling of “pins and needles” or tingling along the lower back and thigh and pain that becomes worse when in a seated position.
Sensations of pain can vary from shooting to tingling to burning depending on the cause of the sciatica. Furthermore, symptoms can include difficulty of movement and loss of function of the leg, depending on the severity of pain experienced. It is also possible to experience radiating weakness in the knees and toes as well. In the most extreme cases where symptoms are not addressed by a medical professional, it is possible to experience weakness or loss of bladder and bowel control.
Treatments for sciatica
It is important to seek the attention of a medical professional in order to diagnose cases of sciatica when these symptoms are present. Sciatica is usually detected through physical examination and health screening. Causes may vary, but can usually be identified in the initial physical examination.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Advil are sometimes used to provide immediate pain relief; however, they are not often very effective because the causes of sciatica are on-going. It is far more effective to couple pain relief efforts with treatments that work to resolve the causes of the sciatica as well.
Chiropractic care is a proven method for treating sciatica and providing pain relief. Spinal manipulation is a treatment modality which works to guide the spinal vertebrae back into alignment, alleviating pressure put on the spinal root nerves. Chronic inflammation which can arise as a consequence of long term sciatica can be treated with soft tissue modalities such as Active Release Technique, otherwise known as ART, the gold standard of soft tissue treatment. ART consists of the chiropractic identifying accumulations of fibrous adhesions, such as scar tissue, through touch and manual directional force to send the adhesions back into circulation, freeing up the soft tissue to have pain free range of motion.
If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms, call SF Custom Chiropractic at (415) 788-8700 to schedule a consultation and appointment with one of our chiropractors today!