Do you have pain in the back of your legs? If so, you may be suffering from a common back condition known as sciatica. Chiropractic care can help relieve the symptoms of sciatica so you can feel comfortable in your own skin again.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a nerve-related condition that causes pain in the lower back, buttocks and legs.
Your sciatic nerves start in your lower back then divide with one nerve going down each leg to your foot. The sciatic nerves are the thickest two nerves in your body, delivering sensation to the back of your thighs, calves, ankles and feet.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica happens when the sciatic nerve is pinched, irritated or inflamed by another condition such as:
A slipped disc, which then compresses your sciatic nerve
Osteoarthritis, which may narrow your spinal canal and so pinch your nerves
Spondylolisthesis, where one of your vertebrae slips and compresses your nerves
Piriformis syndrome, tight or swollen muscles in your buttocks
Pregnancy, which loosens your ligaments while the baby’s weight adds pressure to the nerve.
Sometimes, you can’t find the exact cause of sciatica. There’s not always an obvious cause like a condition or injury.
That said, you’re more likely to experience sciatica if you:
Have age-related changes to your spine, such as osteoarthritis
Are overweight, which puts your spine under extra pressure
Have diabetes, which may damage your nerves over time
Sit for long periods each day
Have a job that involves lots of twisting or heavy lifting.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
Sciatica causes pain and tingling radiating from your buttock down the affected leg. You can feel pain anywhere down the nerve pathway.
Sciatic pain varies considerably. Some people experience only a mild ache while others suffer extreme pain. Some people get a sharp, burning sensation while others feel like they’re having electric shocks.
Since the pain follows the path of the sciatic nerve, you usually only feel it on one side of your body. It may worsen if you cough, sneeze or sit still for a long time.
You should seek urgent treatment if you start to have trouble controlling your bladder or bowels or if you develop weakness, numbness or severe pain. Sciatica caused by a slipped disc can sometimes cause a rare condition called cauda equina syndrome, a medical emergency that requires surgery.
How is sciatica treated?
If your sciatica symptoms are mild, then you can try self-care methods such as:
Icing the painful area during the first week then using heat packs to increase blood flow to the area
Resting for the first couple of days then moving regularly to maintain muscle strength
Avoiding sitting for any great length of time.
Treatment for sciatica depends on the severity of your symptoms but could include:
Chiropractic spinal care
Exercises to correct your posture, strengthen your back muscles and improve your flexibility
Occasional steroid injections to suppress inflammation around your nerve and relieve pain
Surgery to remove bone spurs or herniated discs – this is reserved for serious cases where the compressed sciatic nerve is causing significant weakness, incontinence or worsening pain.
How can Hope Health help with sciatica?
Chiropractic care can help with a range of musculoskeletal problems including those which may lead to sciatica.
Using spinal manipulation and muscle-strengthening exercises may help relieve the symptoms of sciatica and may hopefully reduce the risk of it happening again.
At your first consultation, we’ll ask you some detailed questions about your health history. Dr. Hope (chiropractor) will then examine you to better understand your spinal health and range of motion. That may include a postural check, functional muscle tests, and X-rays using our in-house digital radiography which saves you a trip elsewhere.
So, if you’re tired of living with leg pain, please make an appointment. We’d love to help.