Sciatica is a specific type of lower leg and back pain that results from the irritation of the sciatic nerve. Usually, effects of this irritation are only felt on one side of the body and extend from the back, down the thigh, and through the leg or foot. The sciatic nerve exits the lower back between two vertebrae and travels down the back of both legs. Often when the vertebrae of the spine or the discs, which are located between the vertebrae, move out of position this could put pressure on the sciatic nerve. This shifting of the vertebrae or disc causes inflammation around the nerve which in turn can cause the pain. Depending on the severity of the irritation, sciatic pain can come or go or be chronic and debilitating.
Pain that stems from sciatica is usually worse when sitting. However, it can also flare up whenever you try to stand or move around. Other than leg pain, sciatica causes a number of other issues including a burning or tingling that moves down the leg, weakness and difficulty moving the affected leg, and numbness along the path of the nerve. Patient’s often also usually have some sort of lower back discomfort that will also occur along with the leg pain.
Sciatica is usually caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine. In many cases, a lumbar disc herniation presses directly on the sciatic nerve. Other ways that the nerve can be irritated include slip and falls, motor vehicle accidents, or simple repetitive lifting and twisting. Pregnancy, lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis can also cause sciatica.
Some factors that can increase the amount of pain you feel from sciatica include being obese, not exercising on a regular basis, sleeping on a surface that is too soft, and wearing high-heeled shoes.
While over-the-counter pain medications, heat or ice, and bed rest can help with the pain of sciatica, they do not fix the cause. One of the least invasive ways to treat sciatica is through chiropractic manipulation. The gentle use of spinal manipulation is used to restore the normal position of the vertebrae and discs, so inflammation and nerve irritation are relieved. As the nerve compression is relieved the nerve returns to its normal state of function which will also then relieve the patient’s symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and burning when the sciatic nerve is compressed. Because sciatica can re-occur it is important to make sure the spine stabilizes and that the correct treatment time is followed.
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