Millions of people feel the effects of Sciatica everyday but many don’t know what it really is! Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself. It is a symptom of a hidden problem buried deep within the back. Symptoms can range from infrequent yet irritating to constant and crippling. Sciatica can cause pain in one side of the buttock and leg, burning, tingling, weakness, numbness, and sharp pain that may cause difficulty when standing or walking. So what really causes these devastating symptoms, and more importantly how can they be treated?
Composed of individual nerve roots that branch out from the spine and lower back, the sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body. It starts in the lower back at lumbar segment 3 (L3) and runs through the rest of the back, buttock, and down each leg. Parts of the nerve then extend throughout the leg into the thigh, calf, foot, and toes. Symptoms of Sciatica begin to occur when the lumbar spine imposes upon and compresses the sciatic nerve. Because the nerve connects much of our lower body, even one pinch in the lower lumbar region can be incapacitating. Many of us experience back or leg pain without acknowledging that it may be sciatica. Sciatica can be difficult to diagnose, however several methods can be used to determine the source of your pain.
Diagnosing sciatica requires a physical examination and then various imaging tests if required. During the physical exam, your doctor or chiropractor may check your muscle strength and reflexes. Walking on your heels or toes, rising from a squatting position, and lifting your legs while lying down usually worsens the pain related to sciatica. This gives the doctor a valuable indication as to whether the pain may be related to sciatica. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, or EMG may be used to further expose any hidden problems. Many patients have herniated disks or bone spurs that will show up on the imaging tests but have no symptoms. For this reason, doctors won’t typically order these tests unless your pain is severe and doesn’t improve.
No one should have to deal with the intense pain of Sciatica symptoms. Many treatments exist to limit or eradicate sciatic pain. These treatments range from surgery to medication to alternative treatment such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, and massage therapy. Surgery can be dangerous to body health and can impose on your daily activity with a large amount of downtime required. Medication can be addictive and sometimes ineffective. Alternative treatment is often the best way to treat Sciatica efficiently. Chiropractic treatment reforms spinal position, relieving the sciatic nerve of pressure imposed by the lower lumbar region. Acupuncture can activate the body’s natural painkillers by inserting hair-thin needles near the area of pain. Massage therapy can treat pain associated to Sciatica by increasing blood circulation, relaxing muscles, and releasing endorphins.
Don’t let sciatic pain be a part of your every day life, see a physician today and get back to doing the things you love!