Sciatica is a common lower back issue that affects people all over the world. Since lower back pain is one of the top causes of disability, understanding this condition is important. Here are 10 things that everyone should know about sciatica.
#1 Sciatica Is More than Just Back Pain
Sciatica can include lower back pain as a symptom, but besides pain, it can also cause numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation. This feeling will usually extend through the hip and down one of the legs. On rare occasions, sciatica can affect both sides.
#2 Sciatica Is Named for the Affected Nerve
Sciatica occurs due to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The largest nerve in the body, it forms from 5 nerve roots at the spinal cord and branches down both legs. The location and type of discomfort experienced can often help diagnose where the compression or irritation is taking place.
#3 Sciatica Comes with Differing Levels of Severity
Pain levels can vary wildly from patient to patient. Also, the amount of area that experiences pain, numbness, tingling can vary. Some patients have pain that goes all the way to the feet and can affect things like driving or even walking. Serious cases of sciatica can even affect the bladder and bowels.
#4 Sciatica Treatment Is Based on the Underlying Cause
There are many factors that can lead to compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. Discovering the underlying cause can help to determine the best course of action for relieving the patient’s suffering. For example, some patients may benefit from exercises while others may require realignment of the spine.
#5 Sciatica and SI Pain Are Not the Same Thing
Sometimes lower back pain springs from the SI (sacroiliac) joint. This is different from sciatica pain. It doesn’t usually cause the same type of radiating pain that affects the legs.
#6 Surgery Is Rarely the Answer
While there are a few rare underlying conditions that respond well to surgery, this is almost never the best long-term solution to sciatic pain. In fact, many researchers agree that both surgical and non-surgical forms of care yield similar long-term results.
#7 Pain Meds Can Help, But Treatment Is a Misnomer
Many people consider pain medication to be sciatica treatment (doctors included). The idea is that the pain is gone by the time the medicine wears off so the patient is “cured.” The problem with this approach is that pain medicine doesn’t do anything to affect the underlying issue. Pain can resurface at any time. This can lead to the long-term use of pain medication and the potential for addiction.
#8 Spine Health Flows from the Top Down
While you may be experiencing pain in the lower part of your back, don’t discount the upper spine as a possible underlying factor. The head weighs 10-12 pounds, and when misalignments occur in the neck, the rest of the body compensates to balance that weight. If a compensation occurs in the lower back and that compensation puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, you may need to correct the neck misalignment in order to attain long-term relief.
#9 It Could Be an Old Injury
Building on the idea that spinal health flows from the top down, the changes that take place in the spine are often very gradual. A neck misalignment can lock the spine in a stressed position that wears the discs faster than normal. Everyday wear and tear begins to produce decades of damage in mere years and leads to arthritis in the spine or other conditions that can cause pain and even sciatica.
If you have experienced an accident or injury in the past 10-15 years, you may only now be feeling the pain that is resulting from a chain reaction set in motion all those years ago. Upper cervical x-rays often reveal injuries that have been working under the surface for many years to produce current symptoms.
#10 You Can Find Natural Relief from Sciatica
If your sciatica is resulting from an upper cervical misalignment, you have a reason for hope. While adjusting the lower back will provide temporary relief, correcting the problem in the neck may provide long-term benefits as the back won’t be under constant pressure to pull back out of alignment.
Upper cervical chiropractors specialize in the top two bones of the spine. Diagnostic imaging is used to pinpoint misalignments down to hundredths of a degree. Correcting these minor neck misalignments with gentle and long-lasting adjustments can give the body the time it needs to heal. That includes reversing some of the changes that were necessary to balance the head. As a result, some patients find that lower back problems end once upper spine issues are corrected.
If you are suffering from sciatica or any other type of back pain, we encourage you to see an upper cervical chiropractor before agreeing to any sort of drastic form of care such as surgery. If an examination reveals a misalignment in the C1 and C2, a low force correction can be tailored to meet your needs. This, in turn, may provide the opportunity the rest of your spine needs to get out of the stressed position that is compressing nerves and causing irritation.
To learn more, contact an upper cervical chiropractor in your area. This subspecialty of chiropractic may be just what you need to get back on your feet again.