At one time or another, everyone has known someone who has experienced the evil “sciatica”, but how many of us know what is sciatica? We’ll to simplify, sciatica is symptomatic leg pain that can consist of tingling, numbness, and weakness. Often referred to as shooting pain that begins in back and radiates into the glutes and typically down one leg. The most common cause of sciatic pain is irritation surround the nerves or nerve pressure. The likely culprit of sciatic nerve pressure is muscle strain. Less commonly, (and much more scary) bone spurs or ruptured/herniated discs can affect the nerve that travels down the leg.
Identifying Leg Pain
Are there different types of leg pain? Well kinda. How the pain is described and where it is can help the doctor identify what’s going on. There is acute pain (meaning it just started anywhere from 1-6 days ago), chronic leg pain (been happening for longer than just a few weeks – meaning this is an ongoing problem), and location of the leg pain is also an important factor. Does the leg pain that is present, radiate to anywhere else on the body? Does it feel like its coming from the low back? Does it radiate down past the knee, does it stay above the knee? Being able to answer this will help your doctor identify what approach to take when he or she is addressing sciatica.
Common Presentation of Sciatica
A more traditional sciatica pain will start in the low back, somewhere around the area where someone might wear a fanny pack, and travel down into one side of the buttocks. This same side is affected, down one thigh and past the knee. The ‘shooting-like’, ‘burning-like’ or sometimes ‘cramping-like’ pain can even travel down into one calf and foot, on the same side. Without question, the pain present is more prominent in the leg than the low back.
Sitting can be a real drag. Often it’s the activity that causes the greatest discomfort. This occurs because as we sit, we position our weight directly onto the disc. Other normal activities such as bending over or rotating/twisting may exacerbate pain. Good news is often, lying down on your back tends to bring relief.
How Did I Get Sciatica?
There is no single cause of sciatica. Likely what causes sciatica pain is a series of many repetitive stresses placed on the body, in relation to gravity, with a posture that does not support evenly on your skeletal system ultimately irritating tissues that make up muscles that place pressure on the big nerve in your leg. Sciatica is an irritated nerve root or nerve bundle that stems from the lower lumbar and or lumbosacral spine. Ways this may have come about… well…. 1) the canal space has narrowed, also known as a spinal stenosis. 2) breakdown of the discs, also known as degenerative disc disease or DDD. DDD occurs when the disc begins to lose its height. The disc plays an important role as is it acts like a cushion between the vertebrae.
Is Sciatica Permanent?
Sciatica pain is not usually permanent. So when do you need to seek medical attention? Well, this becomes a ‘sciatica medical condition’ when long term compression takes place for a long period of time… and it’s this chronic pressure, that can permanently damage nerves… and ultimately, can change the function of the tissue/organ that the nerve supplies.
Are There Non-Surgical Treatments Available?
There are. If fact, it’s always recommended that you try the least invasive option available. Whenever necessary, you probably want to work your way up the ladder from least invasive to most invasive similarly as you would change the batteries in your remote, then replacing the entire remote control before you’d replace it with a new TV.
Heat and ice are usually a best first option. Aside from being quite effective, it’s also a rather simple and inexpensive treatment. Heating pads are always more popular than ice, so I’ll focus on that. I know we’re not supposed to play with are food, but I’ve always been fond of a good ol’fashion bag of frozen pea’s and carrots. They’re not only good for getting a little vitamin c, potassium and folate, but they make an excellent ice pack that gradually warms naturally to tell you it’s time to take it off of your skin. (Generally, they say it’s safe to do 20 mins on, 20 mins off indefinitely). When you’ve already tried heat and ice, and that’s no longer helping, consider focusing on your head posture.
Check your posture. Yep. Remember your parents telling you to stand up straight? Well they were on to something. When your body has developed into a position that supports your poor posture, you body’s musculature (it’s tone to be specific, is unbalanced. To best correct this, ensure your head is directly positioned of it’s body, well… more of the time than it’s not. Easy to imagine, right? Your head is the heaviest and most capable of transitioning the balance from one side to another, moreso than any other part. Sometimes, the heads position/placement on it’s neck, may stem from an impact of some sort (although not necessarily and impact). If this is the case, there is a non-invasive assessment and method of correcting this displacement. Blair upper cervical chiropractic is good place to start. It’s a non-traditional method that doesn’t involve twisting or cracking whatsoever. It’s different as far as chiropractic is considered.
Stretching and exercise. Believe it or not, proper low impact exercise in addition to rest, can not only help reduce the pain but also possibly prevent this from happening again in the future. Better yet, it can also help prevent future unbalanced muscle tone that developed over time.
Most importantly, when ‘you’ll have to live with it’ is the answer you’ve been given, don’t be afraid to seek other opinions. Sometimes, we need to remember that we are stronger and more capable of healing than we might think.