Sciatica - The Original Pain In The Butt

Sciatica is a term used a lot by the general public but is often misunderstood. This painful condition is named after the nerve which it affects, the sciatic nerve. The sciatic is the largest nerve in your body and forms from several of the spinal nerve roots in your lower back (L4, L5 and sacral nerve roots). Upon the joining of these nerve roots, the sciatic nerve follows a straight path into your legs with its fibers ultimately ending in your feet. In between, its nerve fibers travel through the deep musculature of your buttock, back portion of your thigh and calf, as well.

The term sciatica refers to the occurrence of pain over the course of the sciatic nerve due to it being pinched or inflamed somewhere along its course. Almost always, the source of the inflammation is within the lower back. This typically begins with a misalignment of a vertebra in your spine. Once misaligned, the vertebra and the joint it is a part of will lose a great deal of motion. The vertebra will also have degenerative effects on the disc beneath it - causing it to swell, protrude outward and place pressure upon the neighboring nerve root. The reduced motion due to misalignment and pressure caused by the disc both irritate the nerve root a great deal. This nerve root then helps form the sciatic nerve. Once inflamed, you may experience pain anywhere over the course of the nerve. The pain will typically continue until the misalignment and disc problem are fixed.

The pain can vary in quality from excruciating to annoying. The most commonly involved types of pain are described as shooting, electric or burning in nature. In addition to the pain, sciatic nerve problems can also cause sensations such as numbness, throbbing, tingling and ‘pins and needles’. Depending on the severity of the structural misalignment in your spine, the nerve pain may or may not be accompanied by general low back pain as well.

What’s Important to Remember About Sciatica?

The biggest point that needs to be stressed is sciatica is serious. It is also not ‘normal’. So if you have the misfortune of suffering from it, do yourself a favor and don’t try to ignore it until it goes away. Although it is possible to have an injury lead to this condition fairly quickly, it is much more common for the underlying structural condition to form over the course of months or years. Over this time the spinal joint becomes increasingly motionless, the disc degenerates further and the nerve will be subjected to increasing irritation. This typically continues until one day, the straw breaks the camel's back (literally) and you have the onset of pain. So now that you understand the severity of the problem, let me share with you the good news… sciatica is very fixable.

What’s The Best Way to Heal Sciatica?

Most cases of sciatica are health issues best handled by a chiropractor. Simply put, its source is almost always a joint within the spine and conservatively caring for the spine is our main focus as chiropractors. Our way of fixing this condition is by giving a hands-on chiropractic adjustment to the responsible vertebra. With each adjustment, the vertebra will slowly regain its correct function and alignment. This allows the involved disc and nerve-root to begin the healing process. Most patients with sciatic nerve pain begin to feel it reducing in severity within a handful of adjustments, if not sooner. Adjustments are rarely uncomfortable and your body will be enabled to heal better with each visit.

I often recommend patients suffering from sciatica to utilize other forms of natural health care while I’m doing my part as a chiropractor. Acupuncture and massage therapy are the most commonly utilized. Both practices have modes of treatment aimed at lessening pain, reducing muscle tension and breaking up adhesions existing between the nerves and their surroundings. The healing process is greatly complemented by their work. There are countless acupuncturists and massage therapists here in Fort Collins and luckily I personally know several of the best to refer to.

Because the source is almost always a spinal structural problem that is fixable, a chiropractor should be the first doctor seen for sciatic nerve problems. We care for the spine without the use of drugs or surgery and our work is very effective. If a patient has been through a course of chiropractic care but continues to suffer, it is very possible that the spinal problem wasn’t accurately understood. We welcome these patients with open arms and are often able to get the needed results by using a more detailed x-ray analysis to determine the exact problem.

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The Sciatic Nerve
(in yellow)

Sciatic Nerve