What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a symptom that consists of leg pain. It can vary from a mild ache to an excruciating, shooting pain. The pain might be worse when you sit, sneeze, or cough. Sciatica can occur suddenly or it can develop gradually. You might also feel weakness, numbness, burning or a pins and needles sensation down your leg, possibly even in your toes.
Sciatica is usually a symptom of a “pinched nerve” affecting one or more of the lower spinal nerves that run down your leg. The nerve might be pinched inside or outside of the spinal canal.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.
The pain of sciatica is usually felt in the buttocks and legs.
Most people find it goes away naturally within a few weeks, although some cases can last for a year or more. The pain can range from being mild to very painful, and may be made worse by sneezing, coughing or sitting for a long period of time.
While people with sciatica can also have general back pain, the pain associated with sciatica usually affects the buttocks and legs much more than the back.
The most common causes of sciatica:
- A trapped nerve in the lumbar spine affecting the sciatic nerve
- A disc herniation – one of the discs in the spine bulges out to the side (‘slipped disc’) and presses on the lower lumber nerve roots (that form the sciatic nerve)
- Piriformis syndrome – the piriformis is a muscle in your buttocks that the sciatic nerve runs under, and sometimes through, and if it gets tight it can irritate the sciatic nerve
- Trigger point referral – knots in the muscles of the buttocks or low back, called trigger points, can cause the sensation of pain down the leg (referral) that can mimic sciatica
How do you treat sciatica?
A combination of Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching and cryotherapy (using an ice pack or Biofreeze) could help greatly. With this approach you are addressing any misalignments of the spine and pelvis through the Chiropractic adjustments; this takes the pressure off the nerves and aides the recovery of any disc herniation (‘slipped disc’). Massage relaxes the tight muscles around the spine and the piriformis if needed, this encourages what the Chiropractic adjustments are doing and relaxes any trigger points in the muscles of the lower back and buttocks. The stretching helps between your Chiropractic appointments, and the ice pack reduces the inflammation around the nerve, again aiding a speedier recovery. An important final note. The symptom sciatica can be caused by serious underlying complaints and should be checked thoroughly by a trained physician who performs a complete physical examination of your muscles and joints and neurological examination of your nerves. If you have any change in your bowel or bladder habits (unusually can’t control or go!) or numbness in your ‘saddle’ area, coupled with severe back or leg pain, then you should see your GP as soon as possible.
As a Chiropractor it is our job to ensure that the complaint you have is a Chiropractic case. At Corrective Chiropractic: Milton Keynes and Aylesbury, we ensure that we give you the best treatment and advice to help you with your sciatica, and in those few cases that we feel that physical interventions like Chiropractic and massage are not the most suitable option, we refer you to the person who is right for you.
You can minimise your risk of a further episode of sciatica by:
- adopting a better posture and lifting techniques at work
- stretching before and after exercise
- exercising regularly
While sleeping, your mattress should be firm enough to support your body while supporting the weight of your shoulders and buttocks, keeping your spine straight. If your mattress is too soft, place a firm board under the mattress. Support your head with a pillow, but make sure your neck isn’t forced up at a steep angle.
More information can be found @ www.nhs.uk/conditions/sciatica