Being a Chiropractor in Fremont given me the opportunity to see sciatica and low back pain and their many causes. The truth is that they are all different and need to be treated as such. Whether it’s related to a sports injury, gardening, or comes on slowly while sitting at the computer, or even sneezing or coughing, everybody has their own story and it’s a painful one.
Sciatica is the term used to describe low back pain that spreads (radiates) through the pelvis, down the back of the thigh and down the lower leg. Low back pain is quite common (60-80 percent of the population will be affected during their life) but true sciatica occurs in 5-10 percent of people. Sciatica is often associated with people between the ages of 30 -55 and may be worse when sitting or laying down.
The Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It is approximately the diameter of your thumb. Its function is to carry nerve impulses from the nerve root (as it exits the spine) to the muscles of the buttocks, thighs and lower legs. Sciatica is a type of radiculopathy (Ra-dic-you-la-path-ee). Radiculopathies are disorders that result from compression or irritation of the nerve roots.
Sciatica often occurs when there is damage to a disc or inflammation of the soft tissues that surround the spine and nerve roots.
The pain associated with sciatica may be severe, sharp, and shooting. It can also have other symptoms such as numbness, tingling and weakness. Many find it difficult to get up from the seated position and finding a comfortable position to sleep is nearly impossible.
The nerve compression or irritation doesn’t only occur at the nerve root. Many times muscles such as the piriformas (in the buttock region) and hamstrings (backside of the thighs) may also cause symptoms as this great nerve passes under/over/through them. A thorough examination needs to be performed to differentiate the cause(s) of the symptoms. Remember that every injury is different and needs to be treated that way.
The medical approach is to give pain killers to cover the symptom or anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling. The Chiropractic approach is to look for the cause of the pain or swelling. By treating the cause of the condition, the symptoms will naturally dissipate without drugs or surgery.