Do you have sciatica? It’s quite likely that you do, but may not even realize it. After all, sciatica is one of the most common, yet misunderstood, types of pain.
According to many medical and health experts, sciatica can be experienced by as many as 40% of adults during their natural life. To make matters worse, this condition appears more frequently as a person ages. In today’s blog, we’ll take a closer look at what sciatica actually is and how chiropractic care may be able to help to relieve the pain it causes.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a complicated name for a particular form of persistent nerve pain. Most of the time, people mistake it for run-of-the-mill back pain. Unfortunately, it’s more complicated than that. You see, the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. To be a bit more specific, it’s actually a bundle of five nerves that runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks, and down each leg. These bundles are about as thick as your pinky finger and can cause significant discomfort when they are irritated.
Potential Causes of Sciatic Pain
In most situations, pain caused by sciatica will affect a single side of your body. The source of the pain can often be tracked back to one of these issues:
- The nerve is compressed by a herniated disk or bone spur on the spine.
- A muscle spasm in the buttocks pushes against the nerve
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (or narrowing) occurs when the small spinal canal, which contains the nerve roots and spinal cord, becomes compressed. This can lead to the nerve roots being “pinched.”
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebra slips forward over another.
As our bodies change and ages, our risk for sciatic nerve pain increases. For this reason, it is critical that we work to maintain a healthy spine. An often-unexpected cause of back pain can be weight gain. For instance, pregnant women often experience sciatica. Additionally, weight gain puts strain on your body. Developing diabetes can also increase your risk for nerve damage and thus sciatica. To help mitigate this risk of chronic pain, read our guide for potentially risky foods to avoid.
General wear and tear is also a contributing factor. In this case, sitting hunched over at a desk all day can lead to spinal damage and pain. In fact, the way you sit at work can be causing bad posture. To avoid this, try to stretch and take short walks whenever possible to prevent this potential pitfall.
Finding Sciatica Relief: Treating the Pain
So now you know what sciatica is and how to recognize it, but how can you treat the pain? While the sciatic pain can feel excruciating, fortunately there is help. In most situations, surgery is unnecessary. In fact, with regular chiropractic treatment and adjustments most cases of sciatica will dissipate within a few short weeks. According to a study from Spine Journal, chiropractic work helped to relieve discomfort caused by acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion. According to this double-blind clinical trial, the majority of participants saw improvements thanks to chiropractic manipulation.
Some serious cases of sciatica may require an operation, but whenever possible, it is advisable to try non-invasive methods for relieving the pain first. Another study, this one published in 2010 by The Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, found that more than 60 percent of sciatica patients who had previous medical management that failed benefitted from spinal manipulation as much as if they had gone through with a surgical procedure.
As you can see, a trip to the chiropractor can do wonders for someone suffering from sciatica. When it comes to pain, it pays to explore all of your options before going under the knife. Chiropractic work may be essential for maintaining a healthy spine and a happy life.