Living with sciatica and lower back pain can be a challenge. Oftentimes sciatica can come and go, giving you a false sense of hope that it might be gone for good. Whether you’re experiencing sciatica for the first time or if it’s become a chronic condition, you might have a lot of questions when it comes to understanding what’s going on and how best to seek out care. We have compiled a complete list of the most commonly asked questions about sciatica and how to achieve relief naturally.
What is sciatica?
The term sciatica is used to describe a set of symptoms that happen when the sciatic nerve becomes irritated or compressed. Your sciatic nerve is the largest and longest one in your body. It originates from nerves that branch off of the spinal cord in the lower back and then runs a course from there through the buttock, hip, back of the leg and into the foot. You technically have two sciatic nerves – one on the left and one on the right. Sciatica typically comes along with some level of lower back pain or discomfort and causes other symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the leg on the involved side. The leg pain can be severe, even worse than the back pain.
What causes sciatica to flare up?
In the majority of cases, sciatica is a result of a problem that began in the lower back. Spinal degeneration can lead to bone spurs and disc herniations that can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing a painful array of symptoms. The most common risk factors for developing sciatica include:
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- Aging – as we get older, without proper care the discs and joints of our spine are subject to wear and tear. Disc degeneration, herniated discs, and bone spurs are among the most common causes of lower back and sciatic nerve pain.
- Sedentary lifestyle – prolonged periods of sitting can be a significant risk factor for developing sciatica. Many people sit for the majority of their day, including time spent at work, driving, or relaxing on the couch when you get home. People with a more active lifestyle are less likely to have the same spinal issues as those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
- Occupation – jobs that require a lot of heavy lifting or twisting of the back, jobs that require a lot of sitting either behind a desk or behind the wheel may play a role in sciatica. If you have a job that exposes you to these potential risks, be sure that you’re using proper lifting techniques and taking frequent breaks if you are sitting for long hours at a time. Maintaining correct posture while sitting can also help reduce the risk of injury.
- Obesity – carrying excess body weight can place additional strains and stresses on your spine. This can lead to earlier degeneration and wear and tear and can lead to sciatic nerve irritation and lower back issues.
- Diabetes – diabetics are more susceptible to nerve damage overall, and this can include an increased risk of developing sciatica.
What are the most common symptoms of sciatica?
In the vast majority of cases, sciatica affects only one side of the body. Pain can radiate from the lumbar spine, or lower back, to your buttock, hip, and down the back of the leg into the foot. It is possible for the pain to be felt anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve pathway, but the most common presentation is for pain to be felt in the buttock, back of the thigh, and calf.
The quality of the pain can vary from person to person, and even from day to day. It can range from a mild, dull ache to an excruciating sharp pain. Pain along the nerve pathway can feel burning or like an electrical shock. Coughing or sneezing often aggravates the pain.
Aside from pain, sciatica can also produce numbness and weakness in the affected leg. It might feel like part of your leg has “gone to sleep” or that your leg feels like it wants to give out when you bear weight or rise to stand from a period of prolonged sitting.
How is sciatica treated?
By and large, the most common recommendations for treating sciatica aim to suppress symptoms until they have a chance to potentially resolve. This usually involves options such as pain-relieving medications, anti-inflammatories, rest, heat or ice therapy, and physical therapy. If applicable, lifestyle recommendations may also help, such as losing weight, learning appropriate lifting techniques, quitting smoking, and ensuring proper ergonomics if you spend a lot of time seated at a desk on the computer.
How can NUCCA upper cervical chiropractic care help with sciatica?
Many people suffering from sciatica have found their way to us in their search for a natural means of lasting relief. What makes upper cervical chiropractic care different is that our goal is always to address the underlying cause of your condition rather than using methods that only cover up symptoms to have them return at a later point. Sciatica sufferers often deal with recurring bouts of pain, and this is due to the fact that the root cause was left unaddressed.
The entire length of your spine is connected by joints, muscles, and ligaments – some of which run from top to bottom. As an upper cervical chiropractic practice, we focus primarily on addressing misalignments of the upper two vertebrae in the spine. While this area might seem like it’s a long way away from the part that’s in pain, the truth is that many spinal changes and problems trickle down from the top, gradually causing compensation and weakness in the lower back.
If you are suffering from sciatica, whether this is your first round or if this has become a recurring issue, having your upper cervical spine checked can be the first step towards accomplishing natural, lasting relief. When the neck can bear the weight of the head correctly, this relieves abnormal, unequal tension on the rest of the spine. This results in an elimination of lower back discomfort and a reduction of the irritation of the sciatic nerve.
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if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.