Sciatica features pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the lone biggest nerve in the body. It starts in the lumbar area (lower back) of the spine and moves through deep within the body. It comes out just below the buttocks and ends immediately above the posterior knee.
Sciatica is not a condition nor a diagnosis, but rather a symptom of a deeper problem. In short, something is affecting the sciatic nerve that irritates or compresses it, and the consequence is pain.
Sciatica brings one or more of the following signs:
- Pain that worsens whenever you sit for long periods
- A tingling sensation in your foot or leg
- Various issues when moving the affected foot
- Muscle weakness in your leg or foot
- Numbness in your leg or foot
- Pain in your leg, or your buttock, usually on one side only
Sciatica is notorious for causing radiating pain or discomfort anywhere along the sciatic nerve pathway. The pain ranges anywhere between mild to extremely intense, similar to an electric shock. You may also experience a combination of numbness and pain in the affected leg.
Who Often Has It?
Sciatica is a fairly common symptom that affects anywhere from 15% to 40% of people during their lifetimes. It seems that this ailment is age-related because it hardly ever hits anyone under 20 years old. However, among 50 year-olds, sciatica is a regular occurrence.
Risk Factors of Sciatica
Regular walking seems to amplify the risk of developing sciatica, especially doing intense physical labor, like operating heavy machinery and carpentry. The risk factors include the following:
It affects your body glucose processing. It can also increase your risk of having nerve damage.
- Extended Sitting Position
People who choose a sedentary life and those who are less active are prone to develop sciatica more than those who are in good shape and leading active lifestyles.
Age-related changes in the spine, which include bone spurs and herniated discs, are the most frequent causes for sciatica to happen.
Driving a vehicle for extended periods, twisting your back, or lifting heavy loads can all contribute to a higher risk of getting sciatica.
Obesity increases stress on the spine. It also contributes to the changes in the spine that can cause sciatica.
Common Known Sciatica Triggers
Sciatica occurs due to a pinched sciatic nerve. It most often happens due to an overgrowth of a bone spur on your vertebrae or a herniated disc. In some rare cases, the damage of the nerve caused by diabetes or a tumor leads to sciatica. Any of the following can also cause sciatica.
- Piriformis syndrome – The piriformis muscle spasms trigger buttock pain
- Degenerative disc disease – Degeneration of the discs that act as cushions between the vertebrae
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – The narrowing of the spinal canal
- Spondylolisthesis – One vertebra slips forward over another
- Irritation of the nerve roots – Specifically in the lumbosacral spine and lower lumbar
Caring for Sciatica: Knowing Your Options
In some circumstances, sciatica may disappear on its own within a few weeks, provided you are knowledgeable with some home care remedies. If your sciatica persists, then seek professional care. Physical therapy for sciatica can be useful. It has two main categories: Active therapy and Passive treatment.
Keep On Moving (Active Therapy)
By keeping an active lifestyle, you can help relieve sciatica pain.
- Strength Training – This type of strength training can focus on correct back alignment. Thus, making the lumbar region, the gluteal muscles, and the thigh muscles stronger to help decrease chances of injury and improve proper back alignment.
- Aerobic Exercise – This includes swimming laps, long walks, or another exercise that increases your heart rate. Aerobics is an excellent way to relieve not only sciatic pain but arthritis too because it releases endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones.
- Stretching – Stretching is a great pain reliever for sciatica by relaxing muscles that may have become resistant to movement and may also be causing stress on your sciatic nerve.
- Slow Down And Relax (Passive Treatment)
In some cases, slowing down can do wonders. Here’s how:
- Ultrasound – The ultrasound machine emits sound waves that can help heal the body quicker. It also relieves stiff and inflexible muscles by improving circulation and giving your muscles a mild form of heat.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) – A controlled and small amount of energy can sometimes decrease the severity of muscle spasms. It is similar to an aerobic workout. It can also help relieve muscle spasms while releasing endorphins, the pain-blocking hormones.
- Massage Therapy – Direct application of firm and deep pressure can soothe cramped muscles, and also makes the ligaments and nerves relax.
Professional Help for Sciatica – Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care
Most of the home remedies and care options listed above can help some people, but not all. Some of those only deal with symptoms, meaning it can work only temporarily until the next sciatica pain strikes again. Sure, you get relief and relaxation. They are all well and good, only to a certain extent. If you want a more long-lasting sciatica relief, then perhaps upper cervical chiropractic care can do that for you. Upper cervical care deals with the underlying cause of sciatica, not just the pain symptoms.
Upper cervical chiropractors focus on making sure that the uppermost bones of the neck are in proper alignment. How does that help your lower back? That is a logical and good question.
Think of the spine like a line of dominoes standing on the floor, if one gets toppled over, it will topple the entire set of dominoes one after the other in a sequence. In the spine’s case, if one vertebra moves out of place, then the whole spine suffers.
If either the topmost bones, the atlas (C1), or axis (C2) vertebrae of the upper cervical spine misalign, then the rest of the spine will have to compensate by twisting and bending. It becomes the underlying cause of sciatica as the sciatic nerve endure irritation and inflammation.
By correcting the neck misalignment, many patients have seen significant improvements with their sciatica pain through upper cervical chiropractic. Some patients have even experienced full recovery from sciatica entirely. This method is precise, gentle, and allows for a long-lasting alignment and natural sciatica relief.
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