The term “sciatica” suggests something from an old-time book of folk medicine — but this nerve impingement syndrome is very much with us in the here and now. Pinched sciatic nerve tissue can cause both loss of function and disturbing discomfort in one or both lower extremities, making your favorite everyday activities into an impossible challenge. Even so, you’re far from helpless against this stubborn foe. Let’s take a close look at sciatica’s causes and symptoms, along with the numerous treatment options that can help you rid yourself of it.
Sciatica is considered a syndrome — a series of related symptoms that issue from an underlying cause — rather than a specific disease or injury. Technically, the term describes irritation of the sciatic nerve tissue. The sciatic nerve is the longest and thickest nerve in the entire body. It extends from several major nerve roots in the lumbar and sacral spine, running through the buttock, hip, and leg. All the lesser nerves in these structures, including the nerves of the ankle and foot, branch from the sciatic nerve. As you might imagine, when communication in this nerve becomes blocked, any of the nerves that depend on it for data transmission are affected as well. When this kind of malfunction occurs, sciatica is the result.
Sciatica is usually related to impingement of the nerve or its nerve roots. Swollen tissues around the sciatic nerve can pinch the nerve itself. More commonly, however, it’s the nerve roots that attach the sciatic nerve to the spinal cord that are feeling the pinch. Degenerative disc disease (including bulging discs), spinal stenosis, an acute injury that herniates discs or alters your spinal alignment, obesity, poor posture, and weak back muscles can all contribute to this problem.
Sciatica typically bothers people between the ages of 30 and 50. The classic symptoms include pain, tingling (“pins and needles”), numbness, or loss of muscle control in the leg and/or foot. You may also experience buttock pain and low back pain. Sciatica often feels worse when you’re sitting down, and bouts of sciatica may last for weeks at a time.
Conservative Care and Surgical Solutions
The good news is that relieving the pressure on your sciatic nerve tissues can relieve your sciatica pain and other symptoms. This relief doesn’t have to be surgical in nature; in fact, conservative treatment frequently works wonders for sciatica sufferers. Depending on the specific underlying cause of your sciatica, we may recommend strategies such as:
- Chiropractic adjustment to shift structures away from the sciatic nerve roots
- Physical therapy exercises to strengthen your back muscles, allowing for a straighter, healthier posture
- Weight loss to ease pressure on the spine
- Anti-inflammatory injections to reduce swelling around sciatic nerve tissue
If your sciatica doesn’t respond to conservative care, we can then move on to minimally-invasive spine surgery. For instance, you may benefit from a procedure to surgically alter a bulging or herniated disc so that it’s no longer compressing a neighboring sciatic nerve root. Post-surgery, you may still benefit from exercise and other preventative strategies to help you steer clear of future bouts of sciatica.
Looking for an End to Those Nagging Nerve Symptoms?
Don’t leave your quality of life at the mercy of nagging nerve symptoms. Take control of your situation today — by calling our clinic and learning more about how we can help you enjoy a sciatica-free life.