Sciatica isn’t just painful. It’s really frightening too. In some severe situations, patients can lose control of their legs. Loss of coordination and problems with muscle weakness can also present themselves.
Fortunately, there’s good news. Sciatica is usually manageable. Just know that the road to recovery is long—it’s not a quick thing. Thus, the best thing we can possibly do for you here at Pure Chiropractic is to help you avoid sciatica altogether.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The sciatic nerve originates in the lower spinal cord and runs through the buttocks and legs. This nerve controls a great deal, including the muscles and blood vessels in your leg.
Pain is, of course, the symptom most people think about. Sciatica pain manifests in several different ways. We’ve seen patients with dull, aching pain, and we’ve seen patients with sharp, stabbing pain. This pain is generally worse whenever the patient stands, coughs, sneezes, or bears down. Most sciatica patients also have back pain, and back pain is often one of the early warning signs of this condition.
Yet there are also a series of “odd” sensations which can come with sciatica. We call this “paresthesia.” Sciatica patients get paresthesia because the nerve becomes compressed. You might feel numbness, or a pins and needles sensation. Paresthesia is also the reason behind the loss of control some patients experience. If there is too much pressure on the nerve the muscles may become so weak that the patient can no longer walk.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is not actually a distinct disease. It’s really a symptom of any one of four common problems. So long as we know the cause of the sciatica we can address sciatica and bring you the relief you deserve.
- Cause #1 – Spinal misalignment. All of our nerves travel through a series of small spinal openings (known as foramen). Spinal misalignment narrows these channels even further. This places pressure on the nerves which can easily lead to the presentation of sciatica symptoms. A misalignment can be caused by poor posture, or it can be caused by one large injury or trauma.
- Cause #2 – Degenerative disc disease (stenosis). Usually the result of spinal misalignments which are left untreated. Your discs are soft fluid sacks between the vertebrae which act as shock absorbers. They are unique in the body because they receive all of their nutrition through movement, which essentially flushes old fluid from the disc while pumping fresh fluid in its place.
- Spinal misalignment can reduce or eliminate movement, starving some discs. Thus, the disc will degenerate. As it degenerates, it loses height. The vertebrae then will tend to form bony spurs which further work to constrict the foramen. Again, the end result is pressure which can lead to sciatica symptoms.
- Cause #3 – A herniated disc. Discs become herniated when they are allowed to degenerate too much. See our slipped disc page for more information about how slipped discs impact the body. For now, it’s enough to understand that a slipped disc is what happens if stenosis goes untreated. If stenosis can cause sciatica then, of course, a herniated disc can definitely put you at risk for this complication.
- Cause #4 – A pulled piriformis muscle. Your piriformis muscle is located in your buttocks. If it gets pulled too tightly it, too, can put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sometimes your sciatic nerve even passes through this muscle!
Reading about these four sciatica causes should leave you with one big takeaway: get any back pain checked out as soon as you feel it. Too many of our patients ignore those little twinges and pangs only to wind up with sciatica later. As I’ve mentioned it takes a long time to recover from sciatica, and there’s no reason to put yourself through that much pain and suffering if you have another option. Remember, most back pain does not simply “go away on its own.”
How Pure Chiropractic Helps with Sciatica
We start with a thorough consultation and assessment. Here at Pure Chiropractic we spend time listening to absolutely everything you can tell us about your present condition. This includes your medical history, old traumas, and more. There’s an old truism which says, “The patient will tell you 80%-90% of the diagnosis,” and we’ve found this to be the case dozens of times.
Once we’ve listened to you we’ll conduct a physical examination, which includes orthopedic, neurologic and chiropractic testing. It may also include x-rays. All of these tests help us pinpoint the source of your sciatica so we can correct the problem. We’ve got multiple treatment methods we can call on. We will typically also teach you some stability exercises and set you up with a regimen of regular chiropractic maintenance to help you live as pain-free as possible. Call us now to make an appointment.