What is sciatica pain?
This pain is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain associated with sciatica is typically felt from the lower back area, down through the buttocks and thigh and radiating below the knee often to the foot.
Often the pain of sciatica is associated with numbness and tingling in the legs and feet.
Sciatica can range in severity from slightly irritating to completely debilitating.
Be aware of ‘self-diagnosis’ of sciatica. Lower back pain radiating to the buttock, and hip or pelvic pain are not necessarily sciatica and proper diagnosis is essential to determine the best course of action.
What is the sciatic nerve?
- The sciatic is the largest nerve in the body.
- This nerve is housed within the spine.
- Nerve signals travel to and from the brain through the spinal cord and then the spinal nerves. These spinal nerves branch off of the spinal cord at every spinal level.
- The sciatic nerve is comprised of several of these spinal nerves from the lower lumbar and sacral (pelvic) region, which come together to form the large sciatic nerve.
The large distribution of this nerve also explains the pain that arises from it when it is irritated.
What are some common causes the sciatic nerve to become irritated?
- There’s not a lot of extra space in the body, and with the large size of this nerve, there’s a lot of opportunity for irritation and the resulting pain.
- Disc herniations – Bulges that may form in the disc can “press” on the nerves.
- Arthritis and normal wear and tear – Changes to the bones and tissues which surround the nerves can result in a diminished the spaces around the nerves.
- Trauma or injury
- Spondylolisthesis – A vertebra may slip over an adjacent vertebra which results in spinal root nerve compression and sciatic pain.
- Pregnancy – During pregnancy sciatic pain may occur as a result of the increased physical demands on the spine and/or the increased competition for space in the pelvic region.
- Piriformis syndrome – The piriformis muscle, located in the buttock region can become inflamed or spasm, often irritating the nearby sciatic nerve.
How is sciatica treated?
The simple answer is to remove the factors which cause the irritation of the sciatic nerve if possible.
Recommended non-surgical, natural options may include:
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Massage therapy
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
- Heat and cold therapy
- Exercises to strengthen the lower back
To help manage the pain, anti-inflammatories may be recommended – but be aware that these drugs often “mask” the pain as well as the problem, rather treating the cause of the irritation.
We recommend people who are prone to sciatic pain be proactive and take action to prevent reoccurrence. Please feel free to contact us if you have a question about your lower back pain. 519-258-8544