Sciatica is leg pain that comes from the sciatic nerve. This nerve is the largest in the body and runs from the lower back down the back of each leg. Sciatica describes pain that affects this nerve and can be felt anywhere from the lower back down through the buttocks and into the leg. Usually, it affects only one leg, but not always.
Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Some things that may bring about sciatica are:
- Lumbar herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
The Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica generally only affects one side of the lower body, and the pain radiates from the lower part of the back to the back of the thigh and then down the leg. A combination of the following symptoms are most common:
- Pain described as sharp and searing
- Constant pain in one side of the buttocks or low back
- Severe shooting pain in one leg that makes it hard to stand up or walk
- Pain and other symptoms in the toes depending on where in the sciatic nerve irritation occurs
- A “pins-and-needles” sensation, prickling sensation, or weakness in the leg
- Lower back pain that is not as severe as the leg pain
- Pain that starts out in the lower back or buttock and travels the path of the sciatic nerve going down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg or foot
- Pain that is worse upon standing or sitting but gets better when lying down or walking
- Numbness or weakness when moving the affected foot or leg
These symptoms may worsen when one suddenly moves, such as when coughing or sneezing or moving positions (such as from a sitting position to a standing one). Depending on the reason for sciatica, the symptoms may vary. For example, if spinal stenosis is the reason for sciatica, then bending backward or walking longer distances can cause more pain. Bending the body forward can bring about pain if the underlying cause is a lumbar herniated disc. It is rare for permanent sciatic nerve or tissue damage to result from sciatica. Spinal cord involvement is possible but very rare.
The Sciatic Nerve
The sciatic nerve is the single largest nerve in the body and consists of nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back. If this nerve becomes compressed or irritated, sciatica occurs. Here are some interesting things about the sciatic nerve:
- It begins in the lower back near the lumbar segment 3 (L3)
- At each level of the lower spine, a nerve root comes out from the spinal canal
- Portions of the sciatic nerve branch off into each leg and run as far as the thigh, calf, foot, and toes
Botox Treatment for Sciatica: Is it the Best Option?
Using Botox treatment for sciatica is a relatively new application for this medication. Botox, also called botulinum toxin, is basically a bacterial poison previously used for cosmetic reasons. More recently, it has gained popularity for migraine headaches and now caring for sciatica and other lower back pain issues. How does it help sciatica?
Botox is injected into the painful areas of the back, legs, or buttocks. It is a paralyzing agent which helps to stop muscle spasms and pain. It is not to be used as a long-term solution. The original injection will likely last longer than any given after that. However, patients have reported that this therapy does seem to ease the pain of sciatica. The relief felt may last for a few months.
Things to keep in mind when deciding whether to have this type of treatment are:
- Botox is poison and comes with risks
- It blocks neurological signals at the junctions where nerves and muscles meet causing the muscles to be unable to contract
- Botox is more helpful when your sciatica comes from muscle problems versus spinal causes
- The FDA has not approved of Botox for low back pain or sciatica
So, you may ask yourself: Is this the right way to care for my sciatica or is there a natural, effective solution available? Thankfully, there is a natural solution! Keep reading to find out how upper cervical chiropractic care can help sciatica.
More than Botox Treatment for Sciatica
So, the next thing you may be wondering is how can caring for the neck area help the lower back? That is a very good question, and we have a very good answer. Imagine the back is similar to a row of dominoes with each one representing a vertebra. If the first domino (or vertebra) is moved, it can affect the entire spinal column. It may not move as quickly as a row of dominoes tumbling over, but over time the effects will make themselves known.
The head can weigh as much as 14 pounds. If the C1 vertebra is out of alignment, the head becomes unbalanced. This causes the spine to shift to compensate. The body works on what is called righting reflex to maintain the eyes at the same level as the horizon line. The spine adjusts to keep this working properly. This can lead to all kinds of problems in the back. One hip may become higher than the other, or one leg may be longer than the other. This can easily lead to an irritation of the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatica.
Upper cervical chiropractors are specially trained to help realign the bones of the upper neck, leading to a happier and healthier spine. We use a gentle method that does not involve cracking or forcing the spine into place. We help the bones move more naturally into alignment. This allows the body to heal and often brings relief from sciatica.