What to Do About Sciatica?
Are you tired of dealing with that annoying (sometimes brutal) low back pain that can send numbness and tingling into your legs?
Are you tired of not being able to sleep, stand, sit, play with your kids, go to work or do anything because it feels like you have a knife stabbing you in the back?
Are you sick of thinking you’re finally out of the woods only to be back in pain for no apparent reason?
Unfortunately, sciatica is misdiagnosed most of the time. That almost always leads to the wrong actions and worst of all poor results.
Let’s take a step back.
What is sciatica?
It’s a term thrown around by many people.
The sciatica I’m referring to is a low back problem causing pain that travels, or radiates, to just underneath the buttocks or down the leg to varying degrees. The pain intensity and severity of pain radiation can vary from person to person.
Why does this happen?
Common Causes & Contributing Factors
1. Disc herniation
In between each bone of the spine are the discs. The discs allow the spine to move and provide cushion and padding to the joints. If the disc is damaged, a portion of it can bulge backwards and place pressure on the spinal cord. A disc bulge or herniation, especially in the lower portion of the spine, can obstruct the sciatic nerve (2nd largest nerve in the body) and lead to discomfort and pain.
2. Spinal Decay/Arthritis
Many people have the misconception that arthritis is due to overuse or age. Most of the time arthritis is caused by not using joints, and it usually occurs in the joints that have a lack of mobility.
When this happens, the body starts to lay down more bone in an attempt to stabilize and protect itself. The extra bone can narrow the space in the spinal canal and place pressure on the sciatic nerve much like a car tire on a hose.
3. Piriformis Syndrome
The piriformis is a muscle, located in the buttock region. When it spasms it may irritate the adjacent sciatic nerve.
4. SI Joint trouble
If the SI joint is not moving properly, it can become inflamed causing sciatica-like symptoms and in some cases can irritate the sciatic nerve which is close by.
No matter what the diagnosis is – if we look at people who undergo treatment such as surgery to address their sciatica, they may often times find a quick reduction in pain. However, the long term data (5 years) shows that there’s little difference between the people who elected to have surgery and those who did not. Depending on the surgery type, it may also cause further issues down the road.
When addressing sciatica, it’s important to take the most conservative steps first, before progressing to more invasive options. Have patience. The problem has likely been present for a period of time.
What can be done?
1. Get checked for structural shifts & proper nervous system function
If the spine shifts outside of its normal range, it can create direct or indirect obstruction to the nervous system which may result in pain and discomfort. Structural spinal abnormalities can also increase the likelihood of disc herniation. We focus on returning the structure of the spine toward a normal range to prevent an issue from sciatica from returning time and time again.
2. Get up and move throughout your day.
Agitation of the muscular component of sciatica can be caused by many things. If you work or spend multiple hours per day seated, this can lead to mobility problems in the SI joints, lumbar spine, and create compression and tension in the piriformis muscle.
3. Decrease the inflammatory load in the body.
The standard American diet (SAD) creates ripe conditions for high levels of inflammation in the body which produces less than optimal conditions for healing. Consider taking a high quality Omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 is helpful for controlling inflammation.
Sciatica is a problem that is common, but certainly NOT normal.
If you or someone you know is experiencing sciatica, please schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss how we may be able to help you.