Sciatica is a type of pain that affects a specific nerve in your lower back called the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and sends signals through the hips and buttocks and down into the leg and foot. Sciatica refers to any pain caused by the sciatic nerve and will typically only affect one side of your lower body. Sciatica pain can occur when the nerve is pinched, compressed, inflamed, or otherwise irritated. Sciatica does not refer to a specific injury or condition, but actually refers to a specific type of pain symptom. Sciatica pain treatment may range from at-home exercises to physical therapy to in-office procedures. At Alan Nathans Family Chiropractic, we can provide sciatica pain treatment for any variety of symptoms and any severity of pain.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Common symptoms of sciatica pain include lower back pain, hip pain, and pain in the buttocks that may worsen when moving to a sitting or standing position. Symptoms of sciatica can also include nerve pain and discomfort like a burning or tingling sensation that shoots down one leg and into the foot. You may also experience numbness, weakness, and even difficulty moving the leg and foot. Depending on what part of the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may occur from the hips all the way to the toes on one side. Sciatica can occur on and off only with specific movements or can affect your ability to move through your daily routines without extreme discomfort. While some people experience intermittent sciatica, others experience sciatica that increases in intensity over time.
Causes of Sciatica
There are a number of ways the sciatic nerve can become irritated or injured and cause discomfort, leading to a need for sciatica pain treatment.
A herniated disc, also commonly referred to as a slipped disc, refers to when the soft, spongy disc that separates two vertebrae slips or is otherwise forced out of place. When this occurs, the disc can put pressure on a nearby nerve, causing significant pain and discomfort. A herniated disc that occurs in the lower back may lead to sciatica. The herniated disc may bulge out of its normal positioning, but it can also rupture and the disc material puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. A sudden or unexpected injury to the lower back can also cause a herniated disc and sciatica, such as improper lifting or a car accident.
A bone spur is a bone overgrowth that may develop on a joint and can cause sciatica. Bone spurs are also common in areas where joint cartilage degrades and osteoarthritis occurs. Joint damage and cartilage breakdown can cause a bone spur to develop as your body tries to repair the area. When a bone spur is located on one of your vertebrae, it can narrow the spinal cord spacing and put pressure on nearby nerves. A bone spur in the lower back may pinch the sciatic nerve and lead to symptoms of sciatica such as pain and discomfort in the lower body.
Spinal stenosis refers to a condition where the spine narrows, generally due to wear and tear as we age. A narrowing spinal column can put pressure on the spine and nearby nerves, like the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Spinal stenosis is most common in the neck and lower back where the spinal column is already narrower. Spinal stenosis in the lower back is also referred to as lumbar stenosis. While some people don’t experience any symptoms with lumbar stenosis, others may experience sciatica pain, tingling, and numbness in the area.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a condition where the discs that separate your vertebrae slowly break down with general wear and tear over time. A properly functioning disc provides cushioning between two vertebrae and also absorbs the shock of common motions. When degenerative disc disease occurs, it can also make a herniated disc more likely. Degenerative disc disease in the lower spine can compress the sciatic nerve and lead to sciatica.
As muscles stretch and adjust to pregnancy, tension and instability in your lower back and pelvis can cause sciatica. As the fetus grows the weight can put additional pressure on the muscles and lower back, hips, and buttocks, compressing the sciatic nerve and causing uncomfortable pain, leading to a need for sciatica pain treatment.
Risk Factors and Complications with Sciatica Pain
Some risk factors can increase your chances of developing or experiencing sciatica, such as age and weight. General wear and tear on the body as we age can lead to herniated discs and degenerative disc disease, among other causes. Excess body weight can put additional stress on the spine, leaving it more susceptible to sciatica. Sciatica is also more common among people in certain occupations that require more lifting, twisting, and continual wear and tear on the lower back. Sitting or standing for long periods of time can also contribute to sciatica.
A physical exam and diagnostic imaging tests will give your doctor a clearer picture of what type of condition or injury may be contributing to your sciatica. Testing muscle strength and reflexes will help determine how the nerve pain and damage is affecting your ability to move from sitting to standing positions and vice versa. Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can indicate bone growth like bone spurs, details of discs separating vertebrae, and effects on spinal nerves like the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica Pain Treatment
At Nathan Family Chiropractic, we offer a combination of chiropractic techniques, neuromuscular massage therapy, and soft wave therapy to treat sciatica. These treatment techniques are all drug-free, non-invasive, and offer a more natural solution to addressing your sciatica and its cause.
Chiropractic Care for Sciatica Pain Treatment
Your chiropractor will want to identify what is causing the sciatica, such as a herniated disc, bone spur, or narrowing spine, in order to provide lasting relief from sciatica through chiropractic care. One type of chiropractic technique is identifying misalignments in the spine, such as a vertebra that is slightly out of place and may be causing sciatica. A chiropractor will use an adjustment technique to gently restore the vertebra back into its proper position. Chiropractors can also identify a herniated disc and use gentle, effective techniques to help realign the disc with its two vertebrae. When the spine is in its proper place it will help improve your posture and take pressure off of nearby nerves like the sciatic nerve.
Neuromuscular Massage Therapy for Sciatica Pain Treatment
Neuromuscular massage therapy refers to a specific type of therapeutic massage on soft tissues to help provide pain relief. This type of massage therapy helps to ease muscular and nerve pain and can be targeted in the lower back to relieve sciatica. Massage therapy with your chiropractor can help increase blood flow to the muscles and encourage fresh oxygen and healing to the area. This specific massage technique also helps to break up lactic acid and provide relief for muscle spasms. Tight, tense muscles can benefit from neuromuscular massage therapy and offer relaxation and pain relief.
Soft Wave Therapy for Sciatica Pain Treatment
Another type of noninvasive therapy and sciatica pain treatment is soft wave therapy via The Stem Cell Machine. Dr. Nathans will use The Stem Cell Machine to send sound waves to the lower back to help decrease your sciatica pain and promote healing in the area. Soft wave therapy is a cutting-edge sciatica pain treatment that will help to improve circulation in the area by restoring and even creating new blood vessels. Soft wave therapy with The Stem Cell Machine provides faster relief and recovery from sciatica pain without the risks of more invasive options like surgery.
At Alan Nathans Family Chiropractic, we focus on natural and effective therapeutic approaches to help your body heal itself so you can experience true, lasting pain relief.