If you have ever had sciatic nerve pain, you know it hurts! Sciatica starts in the lower back or buttock, radiates down one or both legs and can travel down the back of the thigh, and in many cases down the calf and to the foot. The pain can be dull and achey in nature, but is often described as sharp, shooting, electric like pain that can be movement dependent. Often times, the pain increases during walking or sitting, and for some may be relieved by lying down. Other people may find that it is hard to be comfortable in any position when it is really acute.
How does this happen?
The sciatic nerve can become inflamed by a couple of culprits. Many times that culprit is the L5/S1 disc, or the last disc in the spine right at the base of the lower back. This is often a site of pain and where the pain seems to radiate from with sciatica. If that disc becomes compromised, either by a bulging disc, inflammation of the disc, or even a herniated disc, the nerve can be compressed and/or irritated causing the referral of pain down the leg. Only until that disc is calmed down and the mechanical stress is removed from it can the nerve irritation be resolved.
Another culprit can be a muscle that runs deep to the gluteus muscles, called the piriformis. This muscle is just adjacent to the nerve, and if tightened or contracted can create a pinched sciatic nerve where pain starts deep in the buttock and can travel down the leg as well. This is called piriformis syndrome, or piriformis sciatica. Often times this can be caused by a misalignment of the pelvis, which can tighten the piriformis muscle which compresses the sciatic nerve, causing the radiating pain.
How can it be treated?
Sciatica can be debilitating. It is painful, and will often limit you from exercise, sleeping comfortably, or even being able to find a comfortable position while at work. If you have sciatica, you know that you want it resolved as soon as possible! A Chiropractor is uniquely qualified to conservatively treat sciatica, to correct the issue at the source rather than masking the symptoms with pain medications.
When I have a patient suffering sciatica, the first thing to do is to go through a complete history and examination, so we can determine the severity of the condition, what the cause is, and what the best way to proceed is. This includes a series of orthopedic and neurological screens that are performed with the patient. These examinations allow us to discern whether the disc of the spine is involved, and if so, does it seem to be herniated or just inflamed. We will also decide if any imaging is necessary. We have digital X-rays in the office which can be helpful if we suspect there is also degeneration, arthritis of the spine or any other complicating factors.
We will begin treatment the same day, so we can get you feeling better as quickly as possible. We have a variety of ways to treat sciatica. Adjustments to take pressure of the spine and the nerves, deep tissue stretching to relieve the spasms from the muscles, and we will also show you how to manage your pain at home with ergonomics, stretching, and exercises to get the nerve to calm down.
Chiropractic is a safe and effective way to treat sciatica. And we do it everyday! At Staker Chiropractic Center in Cary, our goal is to get you back doing what you love. We want you to be active, healthy, and most importantly we want to resolve your issues, not just mask them. I would love to talk with you about your symptoms, so please give me a call at our office at (919) 460-1515.