Depending on the exact parameters, 13 to 40 percent of people are affected by sciatica at some point in their lives. The condition is most common in middle-aged people and is disproportionately more common in men. Many cases resolve themselves over time or with appropriate non-invasive interventions such as natural chiropractic care. However, some cases are of chronic origin and cause long-term personal and socio-economic consequences for the patient and society in general. Below, we discuss the causes, symptoms and interventions for those suffering from sciatica pain.
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is a radiant pain along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest single nerve in the human body, it branches into the lower back, through the hips and buttocks, and into each leg. The pain associated with sciatica usually occurs in one leg, although sometimes it also occurs in both legs. The pain and duration of symptoms may vary from case to case.
Cause and risk factors of sciatica pain
Sciatica is usually the result of a hernia, but can also be caused by a number of factors that compress part of the sciatic nerve. This causes inflammation, pain and numbness in the leg. Below we briefly discuss most of these causes:
Spinal hernia – 90 percent of cases are caused by a disc pressing on the lumbar or sacral nerve.
Spinal canal stenosis – Spinal canal stenosis occurs when the spine narrows and compresses the nervous system.
Piriformis Syndrome – This condition occurs when the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle instead of under it and may be caused by overuse or trauma.
Pregnancy – The weight of the fetus may press on the sciatic nerve during pregnancy, causing some women to suffer from sciatic pain.
Others – In some cases, sciatica may be caused by a tumor in the spinal cord or nerve roots. Direct trauma, such as during a sports accident or a car accident, can also be a cause.
Other risk factors for the development of sciatic nerve pain include:
Age – As age increases, so does the number of bone spurs and hernias, which are the most common causes of sciatica.
Obesity – Obesity increases spinal stress, which can cause sciatic nerve pain.
Occupation – An occupation requiring heavy lifting, twisting, or other movements that may lead to injury may involve the development of sciatica.
Prolonged sitting – People with a (too) quiet lifestyle, or those who often sit still for prolonged periods of time, are more likely to develop symptoms of sciatica.
Diabetes – In general, diabetes can increase the risk of nerve damage.
Sciatica prevention can be done in these simple ways:
Use the correct posture while sitting
Use the correct body mechanics while moving
Traditional sciatica treatments can, in severe cases, rely on the use of medications such as steroid injections or surgical procedures.
Medications: anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants and anti-epileptic medications can be prescribed to relieve sciatic nerve pain.
Surgical procedure: in very severe cases, it may be necessary to remove the bone spur or part of the disc that causes the nerve compression.
Steroid injections: corticosteroids can be injected around the nerve root. This can reduce pain by suppressing the inflammation on the nerve. These injections should only be used sporadically because too frequent use can cause serious complications.
Chiropractic sciatica treatment
Many people prefer non-surgical and natural sciatica treatment before using medication, surgical procedures or steroid injections. In these cases, they can visit a chiropractor for sciatica treatment. The chiropractic approach to sciatica pain focuses on helping the body heal itself, without the need for medication or surgical procedures. The type of treatment is determined by your chiropractor and for your specific case. Some of the treatments they can prescribe are:
- Ice/Cold Therapy reduces inflammation to control sciatic nerve pain.
- TENS treatment sends electrical signals to stimulate the affected area and control pain and spasms.
- Ultrasound, through the use of sound waves, creates a gentle heat that can penetrate deep into the tissues. This improves blood circulation and reduces inflammation, cramps, swelling and pain. However, back adjustments are the first option of treatment.
- Adjustments are used to realign the irregular vertebrae that cause a hernia.
Your doctor will further develop a specialised lifestyle plan for further treatment at home aimed at your sciatic pain. This plan includes sciatica exercises that strengthen the core and spine, a diet and a nutrition plan.