For many, chiropractic care isn’t a priority until there is pain associated with the neck, spine or hips. While some pain can be relieved with medication, the underlying condition is still prevalent and should be addressed. One condition, in particular, can be present without pain, but if put off and aggravated can be quite debilitating. This condition is known as sciatica.
What is the Function of the Sciatic Nerve?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body, extending from the lower back the nerve travels down the back of the leg through the calf, ankle and into the foot. With sections of the nerve branching to many parts in the lower body, the sciatic nerve is a mixed-function nerve, receiving both sensory and motor neurons, which simultaneously can cause muscles to feel and move.
When the sciatic nerve is irritated, it can generate pain, typically from the low back through the back of the leg. Herniated discs, narrowing of your spinal canal and degenerative disc disease is a few conditions that can pinch the nerve or cause a buildup of inflammation that can cause pain and discomfort. Additionally, being overweight, prolonged sitting or trauma can cause additional stress and cause spinal changes that can trigger sciatica.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica can present itself after an injury or can flare up from prolonged sitting, usually only affecting one side of the body. The degree of pain can range from mild to severe, can manifest itself as a burning sensation or sharp pain. Typically, sciatica presents as a shooting pain radiating from the buttock down the back of the leg but can be present in the back, buttock, hip or lower extremities, along with the path of the nerve. Other symptoms can include stiffness, numbness, tingling and/or muscles weakness, inability to bend the knee, difficulty rotating and bending the foot.
When to Get Help
If you’ve suffered from any of the above symptoms and believe to be suffering from persistent sciatic nerve pain, it’s best to see a chiropractor. A chiropractor can determine the cause of your pain and symptoms by performing tests, ordering x-rays and establishing a treatment that can decrease or eliminate your symptoms.
Treatment and Relief
Sciatica can be caused and triggered by a number of different conditions. What may work for one person might not work for another in fully relieving their symptoms, but don’t fret, there are options. Through spinal manipulations your chiropractor can adjust your back, hips and legs to realign and alleviate pressure on your spine, nerves, and joints. “Spinal manipulation may create a response in the nervous system that relieves pain and restores normal mobility to the injured area,” says study researcher Gordon McMorland, DC, of National Spine Care in Calgary, Alberta. “It also reduces inflammation, creating an environment that promotes the body’s natural healing mechanisms.” If needed your chiropractor can oversee, refer or work in tandem with a physical therapist, massage therapist or pain specialist to give you the best options for managing your pain and symptoms.