What is Sciatica and why does it hurt?
Sciatica describes pain, numbness, or tingling that is caused by irritation of the nerves which connect to the main Sciatic nerve in your spine. Your Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and it is formed by the roots which originate from your spinal cord in your lower back. The Sciatic nerve passes through the buttock with branches spreading through your legs all the way to your feet.
What causes Sciatica pain?
Generally, if you are feeling Sciatica pain, it is because something is directly irritating the nerve root in your spine. Most commonly, it is a herniated disc that is bulging or is out of place and it is literally pushing or rubbing against a nerve root. This irritation usually causes pain and discomfort. A herniated disc itself can be the result of a serious injury or trauma like a car accident or a fall. They can occur from overuse as is the case with athletes or very physically active patients. And, they can be the result of a strain from the improper form when picking up a heavy or cumbersome object. Regardless of the how it happened, the pain and discomfort is the same and must be addressed.
Spinal stenosis, bone spurs, & others
Other medical conditions, like Spinal stenosis, which occurs when the canal of the spine narrows and becomes so tight that it impinges the nerves and causes Sciatica discomfort, can be a cause of Sciatica pain. Arthritis in the spine, most common in the elderly, can also be problematic. The bone on bone friction involved often creates bone spurs that are sharp, which can rub against the nerves and be extremely painful. Pregnancy can also cause Sciatica pain with the change in weight and positioning of the pelvis. Finally, in the rarest of cases, cancers and tumors can grow against the nerves and cause Sciatica discomfort.
Sciatica Symptoms and Treatment Options
The key symptom of Sciatica is pain and discomfort. Specifically, the discomfort stems from the buttocks or lower back and can travel all the way to your feet. You should consider seeing a medical professional if any of these symptoms are present and persistent in your back, legs, or feet:
- Weakness or loss of strength
- Tingling (pins and needles)
- Numbness or lack of feeling
Sciatica Pain Treatment
Treatments for Sciatica pain are varied and there are many options available. The most severe cases may require surgery, while the lesser cases may be resolved with only rest. Usually, some middle ground of these two extremes is the answer for treating Sciatica pain. These treatments include:
Spinal decompression therapy
Spinal decompression machines, available here at Reinhardt Chiropractic, will slowly and safely stretch your spine creating a negative pressure between your vertebrae. This slow, steady pull of your lower back causes bulged discs to retract, while increasing local blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to any damaged tissues. The results are less pain and better mobility over time with multiple decompression sessions.
Pain medication, heat, and cold therapies
These are the “quick fixes” for most with back pain. Pain medication will reduce inflammation and possibly reduce the pressure on your sciatic nerve. Cold and heat therapies on the affected area will help relieve pain and muscles tension which can be a factor in Sciatica pain. These methods are rarely a long-term treatment of the problem though they can help with the symptoms as you go down the road of recovery.
Physical therapy and exercises
Performing physical therapy, including certain stretches and exercises, can help with Sciatica pain by reducing inflammation, increasing flexibility, and strengthening the muscles that surround your spine and give it the support it needs to protect your back naturally. Physical therapy and exercise will increase blood flow to the affected disc and nerve. In turn, this helps the body get rid of the chemicals causing your pain and inflammation.
While this treatment is common amongst those seeking stress relief, it can be very effective for dealing with sciatic nerve pain. Massage therapy can provide relief by treating painful muscular and spinal areas such as the lower back and leg regions affected by sciatica. The manipulation of superficial and deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue can significantly aid in the healing process. Through a variety of techniques, this increases circulation by increasing oxygen and nutrients to the affected tissues and discs.
Yoga and Stretches
Many people with sciatica find that abrupt movements after sitting and standing for long periods of time often trigger their pain. Sitting at a desk for several hours causes the spine to shorten or scrunch. Similarly, standing too long can put pressure on the spine. Yoga and stretching aid the development of good posture and reduce your pain and inflammation. Having good posture can greatly help in prevention. Yoga is an effective option to relieve your pain.
Natural Anti-Inflammatory Topical Preparations
Natural topical products act transdermally and are popular for decreasing the pain and symptoms of sciatica. These remedies do not offer any long-term cure and do not have any effect on the actual sciatic nerve itself. We often recommend these products as a supplement to existing treatments and therapies. These natural preparations can be usually bought over the counter. Many contain substances such as herbs, oils, menthol, capsaicin and camphor.
Devil’s Claw (Herbal Medication)
Despite it’s negatively connotated name, this herb contains anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and anti-rheumatic properties. Devil’s claw is a natural remedy that can help relieve your lower back or leg pain. It is commonly available in the form of capsules or tablets. For all tea lovers out there you can also boil the devil’s claw root, allowing it to steep for 3 to 5 minutes and drink it a few times a day.
Acupuncture treatment is the insertion of extremely thin stainless steel needles into the precise acupoints on the body based on the pattern of imbalance the practitioner determines. If you are looking for a safe and natural form of pain relief for your back pain, acupuncture has been shown to have a positive impact on patients with sciatica. It works by stimulating the body to release natural painkillers and endorphins, and the stimulation is painless and does not cause long-term side effects often experienced by taking pain-relieving drugs.
In the most severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Before you make that life-altering decision, make sure to exhaust all other efforts. Often, spinal decompression therapies are the final option before surgery and your Sciatica pain may stop there and be resolved.
Try These Stretches for Pain Relief
Can Chiropractors Treat Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Absolutely! In fact, chiropractic care is one of the top treatments for Sciatica pain. Utilizing a variety of therapies and techniques, chiropractic treatments can not only relieve pain, it can correct the problems associated with Sciatica and eliminate them.
A good chiropractic care regimen may include spinal adjustments, passive therapies, spinal decompression, massage therapy, and physical therapies to help decrease pain and correct the issue causing it. A great chiropractic solution will be a plan that involves any or all of the above treatments as determined by your need and recovery timeline. This customized care will give you the best shot at a speedy and long-lasting recovery so you can live a pain-free and happy life.
If you think you are suffering from Sciatic related pain, consider the chiropractic option solution. Dr. Graham Reinhardt can help by building a customized recovery plan around your needs and goals. With his years of experience, friendly staff, and advanced equipment, he will get you back to normal the natural way. Contact him and schedule an appointment to get onto the road to recovery today.
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