Sciatica is a commonly used term when talking about low back pain, but is often misused or misunderstood. The first point to clarify is that Sciatica is not a diagnosis, it is a term used to describe leg pain arising from or caused by the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates from the nerve roots exiting the lumbar spine (the bottom five vertebrae of the spine). These nerve roots come together to form the sciatic nerve which runs down the leg, providing sensation and control of muscles. When compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, changes in sensation (such as pins and needles) or even muscular weakness in the leg.
Compression of the sciatic nerve often occurs as a result of a bulging disc. Discs are the shock absorbers between the vertebrae; they are made up of hard fibrous rings surrounding a soft gel-like centre. This soft centre allows for movement between the vertebrae, however under high or repeated strain (especially twisting), it can bulge through the hard fibres and put pressure on the exiting nerve root. This pressure interferes with the normal function of the nerve, causing pain and interfering with normal sensory and reflex pathways.
Disc injury can come on during strenuous activity (such as lifting a heavy box) or whilst performing a simple every day task. In the latter case, it is important to identify the cause for the weakening of the disc. A common cause is an imbalance or distortion of the pelvis. The pelvis moves with the hips during day to day activities such as walking, however when the pelvic movement stiffens, the lumbar spine compensates by twisting slightly. Over time, this repeated micro-stress weakens the outer fibers of the disc, meaning that eventually something as simple as getting into the car can result in injury.
What can a chiropractor do for my sciatica?
Chiropractors use a variety of techniques, aimed at reducing short term pain levels as well as improving function to decrease the likelihood of relapse. This is usually done using a combination of manipulation, muscle release techniques and exercise. Call now to find out if we can help you.