You may have heard other people talking about it, done a quick search on Google and maybe even diagnosed yourself with it. Your Rochester chiropractor often hears patients self diagnose themselves with sciatica. But do you really have sciatica? Let’s talk about it.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain that radiates down the leg along the path of the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your hips and buttocks before splitting up into smaller nerves going down the leg. Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body.
Sciatica, known medically as lumbar radiculopathy, can be extremely painful and debilitating to live with. Unfortunately, sciatica is a fairly common condition, with between 10-40% of the population being affected by it at some point in their lives.
The pain that is associated with sciatica is caused by either compression or inflammation of the sciatic nerve which then sends a signal to the brain that gets interpreted as pain, numbness, or tingling down the back of the leg.
Causes of Sciatica
There are several different causes of sciatica. The most common cause is a herniated or slipped disc in your spine that results in one of your nerve roots getting compressed. Slipped discs occur when the gel-like center of the disc begins to bulge out of the walls of the vertebrae.
Sciatica can also be caused by degenerative disc disease, which is caused by wear and tearon the vertebrae of your spine. This disease can result in spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal cord), which traps your sciatic nerve.
Amongst the most common causes of sciatica is osteoarthritis, a condition where the bones and cartilage wear away. If this occurs in the spine, it can lead to sciatica.
If there is trauma to the sciatic nerve or lumbar spine, or tumors are present, you may also experience pain and numbness in the area.
Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica
The main symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain that begins in your lower back and radiates down one leg
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Tingling or pins and needles in your foot
- Numbness in one leg
To begin with, your doctor will run through your symptoms. They will ask you if you’re getting any pain, numbness, or weakness in your legs, and how severe each of these symptoms are.
Next, your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam to determine which nerve, if any, is causing your symptoms. They may ask you to squat, walk, lunge, or raise one leg while lyingon your back.
If the exam findings are severe enough, you may be required to go for an x-ray, CT, or MRI scan to check for a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
Home Treatments for Sciatica
This condition can clear up by itself but it may persist for months if untreated. Although many doctors prescribe rest, this can often leave you in more pain and discomfort. The goal of treatment is always to reduce pain and help you to live without discomfort. If mild, you can treat your sciatica at home with some self-care treatments, such as:
- Applying hot or cold packs to the areas of pain.
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications to reduce pain and swelling.
- Performing some gentle stretches to strengthen your muscles and relieve tension inyour lower back area. Some of the best stretches include the cobra pose and the pigeon pose.
- Regular exercise to prevent aggravating the compression nerve even further through immobilization. Exercising should not feel painful. If it does, you might need to try other mobilization or stretching movements to help relieve tension around the nerve root first.
If your self-care treatments are proving ineffective after several weeks, you might needmore intense treatments. In this case, you should consult a chiropractor in Rochester who can use additional treatment options to help relieve your pain and discomfort.
What A Chiropractor Can Do For Sciatica
After a thorough exam to determine the source of your pain, several treatment options may be available depending on what was found. The ultimate goal is to get the pressure off of the sciatic nerve. You may receive muscle stimulation and heat therapy to loosen up muscles around the nerve. Alternatively, you may receive cold therapy to decrease inflammation in the area.
Chiropractic adjustments help to mobilize the joints of the lower back to help promote improved range of motion and more natural movements. Specific exercises and stretches are then given to help manage the symptoms in between treatments.
A wildcard treatment offered by your favorite Rochester chiropractor is chiropractic laser therapy. Class IV Deep Tissue Laser Therapy works to decrease inflammation, improve blood circulation, and accelerate the healing and regeneration process.
If you’re currently experiencing the symptoms above and suspect that you have sciatica, we’d love to help! Book an appointment today so we can perform an assessment and provide you with the best treatment options.