The sciatic nerve is the largest, longest, and thickest nerve in the human body. It is formed by the combination of five nerve roots in the lumbosacral region of the spine. The nerve originates from the lower back and travels through the hips, buttock, and the posterior part of the thigh, and as far as the heel of the foot on each side of the body.
The sciatic nerve is responsible for motor and sensory innervation of the thigh, leg, and foot. Motor innervation helps in transmitting impulses from our brain and the spinal cord to the muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot. Sensory innervation helps transmit sensory information from the skin on the thigh, leg, and foot back to the central nervous system.
What is Sciatica?
The term “sciatica” is not a medical condition but is often used to describe the pain along the path of the sciatic nerve caused by the compression, irritation, or inflammation of one or more lumbosacral nerve roots associated with this nerve. Sciatica is also referred to as “lumbosacral radicular syndrome (LRS)”, “lumbar radiculopathy”, “radiculopathy”, “sciatic neuritis”, and “sciatic neuralgia”.
Sciatica can range from mild to severe shooting or radiating pain that travels along the path of the affected nerve and generally affects only one side of the body. The pain is also associated with weakness and numbness. Twisting, bending, prolonged inactivity, or coughing often worsens the pain.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica pain generally occurs due to herniated or bulging disc. Several other causes leading to sciatica pain include spinal bone spur, narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis), wear and tear due to aging, trauma due to injury, and tumor.
Piriformis syndrome, a condition in which the piriformis muscle shortens or spasms due to trauma or overuse may also cause compression of the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica pain.
What Triggers Sciatica?
Age, height, smoking, and mental stress are some of the contributing risk factors associated with sciatica. Workers at occupations involving frequent lifting, bending, twisting, and other physically awkward positions, machine operators, and truck drivers are also predisposed to developing sciatica pain.
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
Sciatica is diagnosed by a careful examination of patient history and physical examination. Based on the initial findings of your physical examinations further diagnostic and imaging tests may be performed to determine the underlying cause of your condition.
How is Sciatica Treated?
Mild sciatica often resolves itself with rest and the use of cold or hot packs. However, it is often a chronic and debilitating condition.
Prescription pain medications, muscle relaxants, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are generally the first line of treatment, unfortunately, but it doesn’t have to be your path. There is always the risk of adverse effects and addictions with prescription medications.
Epidural steroid injection shots might provide effective pain relief but there is a lack of evidence for long-term pain relief through corticosteroid injections.
Therapy, regular light exercise like walking, swimming, gentle stretching can also help provide some pain relief.
However, it is essential to understand and accurately diagnose the underlying cause of the condition to treat the pain effectively. Surgery is generally not recommended unless you fail to find relief from all other treatments or you experience sudden severe pain or lose bowel, bladder control.
Spinal manipulation and spinal decompression performed by the chiropractor is a safe, non-invasive and effective treatment that addresses the underlying cause of sciatic nerve compression and irritation and can provide effective long-term pain relief.
Chiropractic treatment for sciatica can help heal naturally through a combination of various treatments including spinal manipulation, massages, chiropractic exercises, and lifestyle changes.
Looking to find out more? Needing some help with the management of your sciatica? Our team at South Orange Chiropractic is here to help. Contact us today!