Have you been experiencing lower back pain? If so, you have plenty of company. About 80% of adults suffer from lower back pain. Often an overlooked condition, you’d be surprised to know that it is the top cause of illness-related work absences and the most common reason for job-related disability.
What Living with Low Back Pain Feels Like
Lower back pain can afflict both men and women, and even children. It can range from a dull, constant ache to an unexpected, sharp sensation leaving you suffering until the pain subsides. The pain may come on quickly after lifting a heavy object or due to an accident. Others may also suffer from back pain as a result of aging and natural deterioration that happens within the spine.
Living an inactive lifestyle can also bring about lower back pain. For instance, if you were inactive during the week, performing an intense workout on the weekend can make your back ache. Most people experience temporary or acute low back pain. Temporary backache lasts for a few days or weeks and resolves on its own. Acute back pain is often mechanical, meaning there is just a disruption in some parts of the back (the spine, muscles, nerves, intervertebral discs), specifically in the way they fit together or move.
Chronic back pain lasts for more than 12 weeks and may persist even after the treatment of the initial cause. Acute low back pain may aggravate and become chronic low back pain in a year, which is what happens to about 20% of people.
Explaining Sciatica, the Common Cause of Low Back Pain
Sciatica is one of the main reasons for low back pain. Sciatica occurs when there’s a problem in the sciatic nerve, the largest and longest nerve in the body. The nerve runs from the lower back, through the hips and buttocks, and then down the back of the legs. Sciatica often affects only one side of the body.
Sciatica can be due to very tense muscles, the narrowing of the spinal column, a herniated disc, a bone spur on the spine, or other such causes. These things result in compression of the nerve, further leading to numbness, inflammation, and pain in the affected leg. In severe cases of sciatica, there is also disruption in bowel and bladder function. If you experience this, you should see a doctor immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica
The main characteristic of sciatica is pain that begins in the lower back, radiates into your buttock, and spreads down the back of your leg. Pain can be present anywhere along the nerve pathway. Other symptoms of sciatica include the following:
- Tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot
- Pain that can be mild, sharp, burning, or severe
- Pain that feels like an electric shock
- Symptoms that get worse upon prolonged sitting
- Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze
- In some cases, pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another part
If the symptoms below sound familiar to you, do not delay seeking medical help.
- Severe pain that becomes progressively worse
- Pain that persists for more than a week
- Sudden or severe pain in the low back or leg
- Pain following a major injury, such as a vehicle accident
- Numbness or muscle weakness in your leg
- Problems controlling your bowels or bladder
Risk Factors for Sciatica
The following factors increase your chance of developing sciatica.
- Prolonged sitting: A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk for sciatica.
- Age: This is due to natural changes in the spine.
- Occupation: Jobs that require you to lift heavy loads or drive a car for long periods can result in sciatica.
- Obesity: This increases stress on the spine.
- Diabetes: It affects the way your body uses sugar, that puts your sciatic nerve at risk for nerve damage.
How a Neck Issue Is Related to Low Back Pain
The brain and the nervous system work together to regulate movement and functions of your body parts. The nervous system is responsible for the coordination of the muscles. It is essential then, for the body to function at its best so that the nerves will not experience disruptions. When the brainstem gets irritated, or the nerves get inflamed, the muscles on one side of the body can tense up, causing pain in the low back.
The spine consists of many vertebrae that support the head, neck, and torso. The skull weighs an average of 14 pounds. Having a balanced head is essential. When the head is tilted, even the slightest bit, the body compensates for it, causing the spine to shift. This can irritate the sciatic nerve and give rise to low back pain.
Upper cervical chiropractors employ a gentle and precise method to realign the bones of the neck that may have shifted. This is often the C1 or C2 vertebra. The body can begin to heal once these bones return in their normal position naturally. Once the structural imbalances and uneven muscle tension are alleviated, sciatica often clears up too.
If you are looking for relief from your sciatica, look for an upper cervical chiropractor in your area and see what upper cervical chiropractic care can do for you!