The sciatic nerve is a nerve that runs from the lower back through each of the hips and down the legs. Sciatica is an aching, raw, burning condition that develops when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated. While some cases of sciatica may resolve on their own, others will require professional treatment.
The most common symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back into the hip and down the back of the patient's leg. Some patients experience this pain as a constant ache, while others notice a sharp, burning sensation. Patients may also notice numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the affected leg. Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body at a time, and it may worsen when the patient coughs or sneezes.
Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is pinched or irritated, however, a pinched nerve is quite rare. It’s more likely that the malposition of and the dysfunctioning of the associated spinal bone will irritate, stretch, rub, or chafe a nearby nerve root. These “subluxations” may distort the critical nerve messages sent from and to the body. This produces alteration in the way our brain and body communicate, affecting the function of the organs and the tissues of the body. The most common cause of this irritation is a bone spur on the vertebrae or a bulging disc in the spine. In very rare cases, sciatica may occur as a complication of diabetes or because of a spinal tumor.
The protein cushions between the bones of the spine are called our spinal discs. These structures transfer the body’s weight from the bone above the disc to the bone below. Therefore, they act as shock absorbers and pivot points when our spinal bones (vertebrae) move. The fibrous rings within the outer portions of the disc restrain the jelly-like substance in the central area of the disc, which serve as the fulcrum for movement. When the fibrous rings deteriorate or break down, under physical stress, this results in the jelly-like structure to shift of even extrude from within the restraining rings of elastic fibers. Discs bulge, tear, herniate, thin, degenerate or rupture; they do not “slip”.
In most cases, the clinicians at FTMC will be able to diagnose sciatica based on the patient’s symptoms and the results of a physical exam. The provider may also order x-rays to determine the cause of the pain. Once the clinical team has confirmed the diagnosis of sciatica, they will create a personalized and comprehensive treatment plan designed to address the patient’s pain and reduce the chances of recurrence. Some of the treatments that may be incorporated into this plan include:
Trigger point injections - Trigger point injections contain a small amount of medication that alleviate pain in a specific area. Our Nurse Practitioner can use these injections to reduce pain due to sciatica.
Corrective exercises - In some cases, a patient’s poor posture or other bad habits contribute to sciatica. Corrective exercises strengthen weak areas and teach patients how to protect the low back from injury.
Decompression therapy- The mobilization and elongation of the spinal discs and joints under computer controlled, horizonal traction is called decompression therapy. This decompression has demonstrated remarkable results in alleviating the pressure within the disc itself, promotion of healing of the disc inner structures, relief of the spinal pressure from the disc material, as well as, remobilization of the effected spinal joints.
Spinal manipulation - Spinal manipulation works by improving the alignment of the vertebrae, which may alleviate some of the pain associated with sciatica.
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