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Introduction to Sciatica
Main Causes of Sciatica
Brown Material

Dr. Anderson's Guide to Treating Sciatica

sciatic nerve

Introduction to Sciatica

Sciatica is a term used to describe nerve pain in the leg that is caused by irritation and/or compression of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica originates in the lower back, radiates deep into the buttock, and travels down the leg.  It is important to note that any type of lower back pain or radiating leg pain is not sciatica. Sciatica is specific to pain that originates from the sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is formed by the union of 5 nerve roots in the lumbar and sacral spine. There are two sciatic nerves in the body—the right and left nerves, supplying the corresponding lower limb.

Main Causes of Sciatica

Sciatica is a term used to describe a set of symptoms caused by an underlying medical condition; it is not a medical diagnosis.  Common medical conditions that may cause sciatica include:

  • A herniated lumbar disc.  When an intervertebral disc’s protective outer layer (annulus fibrosus) partially or completely tears, some of the jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus) may leak and cause inflammation and pain.

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis.  Occurs when the spinal cord in the neck (cervical spine) or the spinal nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar spine) are compressed.  Symptoms of lumbar stenosis often include leg pain and tingling (sciatica), weakness, or numbness.

  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease.  General degenerative changes in vertebrae or discs.

  • Spondylolisthesis.  Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over the one below it.  Spondylolisthesis is a fairly common cause of lower back pain and leg pain in younger adults (age 30 to 50), and degenerative spondylolisthesis is a fairly common cause of pain in older adults (age 50 and up).

  • Muscle spasm.  Involuntary contractions of the musculature and/or inflammation of the lumbar and/or pelvic muscles.

  • Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.  When an intervertebral disc’s protective outer layer (annulus fibrosus) partially or completely tears, some of the jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus) may leak and cause inflammation and pain

Rarely, tumors, blood clots, or other conditions in the lower spine may cause sciatica.

chiropractic adjustment to leg

Common Symptoms of Sciatica

The symptoms of sciatica are commonly felt along the path of the large sciatic nerve. Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following features:

  • Pain.  Sciatica pain is typically felt like a constant burning sensation or a shooting pain starting in the lower back or buttock and radiating down the front or back of the thigh and leg and/or feet.

  • Numbness.  Sciatica pain may be accompanied by numbness in the back of the leg. Sometimes, tingling and/or weakness may also be present.

  • One-sided symptoms.  Sciatica typically affects one leg. The condition often results in a feeling of heaviness in the affected leg.  Rarely, both legs may be affected together.

  • Posture induced symptoms.  Sciatica symptoms may feel worse while sitting, trying to stand up, bending the spine forward, twisting the spine, lying down, and/or while coughing. The symptoms may be relieved by walking or applying a heat pack over the rear pelvic region.

 

The Course of Sciatica

Often, a particular event or injury does not cause sciatica—rather it tends to develop over time. Sciatica affects 10% to 40% of the population, typically around the age of 40 years.  Sciatica is found to be common in certain types of occupation where physically strenuous positions are used, such as machine operators or truck drivers. Specifically, people who often bend their spine forward or sideways or raise their arms frequently above shoulder level may be at risk of sciatica.

woman with pain in glute

How Long Does Sciatica Take to Heal?

The vast majority of people who experience sciatica typically get better within 4 to 6 weeks with nonsurgical sciatica treatments.  If severe neurological deficits are present, recovery may take longer. An estimated 33% of people, however, may have persistent symptoms up to 1 year.  When severe nerve compression is present with progressive symptoms, surgery may be indicated.


Chiropractic Treatment for Sciatica

Manual manipulation, typically performed by a chiropractor, aims at improving the alignment of the spine. This technique may help address the underlying conditions that can cause sciatic nerve pain, such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis. Manual manipulation can also create a better healing environment and should not be painful.

Chiropractic Treatment to leg

When Sciatica Is Serious

Certain symptoms of sciatica may indicate a serious medical condition, such as cauda equina syndrome, infection, or spinal tumors. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Progressive neurological symptoms, such as leg weakness

  • Symptoms in both legs

  • Bowel and/or bladder dysfunction

  • Sexual dysfunction

It is advised to seek medical attention immediately if such symptoms develop. Sciatica that occurs after an accident or trauma, or if it develops in tandem with other symptoms like fever or loss of appetite, is also cause for prompt medical evaluation.

Common Symptoms of Sciatica
The Course of Sciatica
How Long Does Sciatica Take to Heal?
Chiropractic Treatment for Sciatica
When Sciatica is Serious
Patient Story
Lush Hills

Beating Sciatica in Time for Golf

How this golfer beat his sciatica in time for his golf trip

Kevin couldn't wait to accomplish his next bucket list task.

He was a passionate golfer- Kevin and his buddies would travel all around the US to different golf courses to enjoy their game in the most coveted places. This time, they were headed to Pebble Beach, California.

Golfer swinging

Kevin was the most excited about golfing at Pebble Beach than any other location they had played, it was going to be a dream come true.

A little over a week before his trip, Kevin was working his HVAC job. While working in a small crawl space, Kevin pulled his back and felt a radiating pain shoot from his foot all the way to his back. He couldn't walk, much less work.

"While working in a small crawl space, Kevin pulled his back and felt a radiating pain shoot from his foot all the way to his back."

Kevin knew his sciatica was acting up again, but it couldn't have picked a worse time. He had no idea how he'd be able to golf next week during his trip to Pebble Beach.

He had seen his chiropractor before to treat sciatica and made an appointment immediately, he asked him if he could do anything to get him to his trip the following week.

Kevin and his chiropractor laid out a plan to get him feeling better over the next week. He came in for four appointments before the trip, where he got adjustments focusing on the sciatic nerve.

"Kevin and his chiropractor laid out a plan to get him feeling better over the next week."

By his last appointment, Kevin was feeling dramatically improved. Not only could he walk again, but he felt confident he could play golf. He went on his trip and played through each hole without any problems. Pebble Beach was even more beautiful and fun than he could've imagined, and he was so thankful he didn't have to cancel his trip.

When Kevin returned, he brought his chiropractor a souvenir from the golf course to express his gratitude. He told him all about his trip and how his treatments got him there in the first place.

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Need to add 100 stars. I have only ever had one Dr. I ever thought this highly about. He deserves every star and then some. Thank you for your professionalism and just awesomeness! Okay done gushing. Wait no, this is a must see for yourself, get an appointment immediately!!!

Jenn B.

Physiotherapy

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