The Causes of Sciatica and How to Treat It
Sciatica is a pain that only those who have experienced it can really understand. Not only can the level of pain be excruciating, but it can also affect movement and your ability to continue with day to day life. However, the picture is not all negative. The first step to improving your life is understanding the causes of sciatica and begin looking into the different treatment options that are available.
What is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body, connecting the brain to the lower body through the backbone. When messages are interrupted, the sciatic nerve sends out pain messages that can affect other areas of the lower body, this is called sciatica. The most common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Constant pain in one side of the lower back, rear or down one leg. This pain is generally worse when sitting.
- A burning or tingling sensation down the affected leg.
- Numbness or weakness on the affected side that can also lead to difficulty moving the affected limb.
- A shooting pain, particularly when trying to move from sitting to standing.
What are the causes of sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by inflammation or irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower lumbar area. In general the causes of sciatica relate to lifestyle and poor back health. If you lift by bending at the waist rather than the knees, use poor posture when sitting, have a mattress that is too soft or even wear high heels, you risk irritating the sciatic nerve. The same is true if you are overweight or pregnant. Other conditions that can cause sciatic pain include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – where the spinal cord narrows in the lower back effectively squeezing the nerve.
- Degenerative disc disease – here the discs between the vertebrae begin to break down, causing them to rub together and trap, pinch or rub on the sciatic nerve.
- Spondylolisthesis – this condition is caused by one vertebra slipping forward over another and trapping, pinching or pushing the sciatic nerve out of place.
The treatment options for this type of nerve pain depend greatly on the causes of sciatica. Where lifestyle plays a large part, making relevant changes can make a difference. Learning to lift correctly, improving posture and losing weight are all effective ways to begin to treat sciatica. Pain medication such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory can also help, as can heat pads and ice packs in some cases. If these do not help and the pain worsens, or there is an underlying medical cause, stronger medication may be suggested such as steroid injections or muscle relaxants. These are usually prescribed in tandem with some form of physical therapy.
Physical therapy helps improve physical functions and build core strength. The right therapeutic approach can strengthen the muscles around the spine and take pressure off of the nerve. It can also help improve posture and prevent the problem reoccurring. A further treatment option may be chiropractic manipulation, which helps to treat a range of disorders of the nervous and musculoskeletal system. It uses physical manipulation to remove or lessen the pressures and irritations that are causing the pain and discomfort. It is an ideal approach where the causes of sciatica include movement of the discs or vertebra. As well as relieving the pain of the inflammation this approach can remove the need for more drastic surgical treatments.
For a free consultation on how chiropractic and physiotherapy services can help you improve the quality of your life, contact Chiro-Med today.