Many people come to our office for a complaint of low back pain. However, a lot of people don’t realize that when the pain is traveling down the back of one or both legs, it is defined as sciatica. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, running from the buttocks to the leg. Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed. Often times, this nerve irritation originates in the low back and symptoms such as pain, numbness or tingling is felt in the buttocks to legs. The pain may be so severe that it is felt in any position, making normal daily activities difficult.
Sciatica is prevalent today, especially with more of the population working from home. While it can affect anyone, there are certain risk factors that can make someone more susceptible than others. People who sit for prolonged periods of time, are overweight or perform a lot of bending or lifting are more likely to suffer from sciatica. Unfortunately, many of us fit into one of these categories which is why sciatica is so common.
There is a difference between acute and chronic sciatica. Acute sciatica is caused by a sudden onset such as an injury. Acute pain generally feels sharper, more intense and can become chronic if not treated quickly and appropriately. Chronic sciatic feels more achy and throbbing, and is more difficult to treat as it usually takes longer to heal. This is because the body has adapted to the issue and perceives it as “normal”. This is why it is so important to address the nerves, joints and spine to allow information to properly flow to the brain and back to the body, not only decreasing pain but improving function.
The doctors at Noble Choice Chiropractic are trained to find out the cause of your sciatica, treat your pain and improve your overall function and wellbeing.
How We Treat Sciatic Pain in Sun Prairie, WI
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
In order to determine if and how we can help with your sciatic pain, a consultation is necessary. This allows us to really listen to your history, your symptoms and how it they are affecting your daily life. We’ll also spend some time setting goals and discussing what you hope to achieve in the immediate future. Because sciatica can affect people differently, it’s crucial for us to understand the problem in order to determine the best care plan for you.
The doctors will also perform orthopedic and neurological tests to help find the cause of your problem. These findings will help us create the correct care plan so we can meet your goals and improve the quality of your life.
At Noble Choice Chiropractic, we pride ourselves on having state of the art digital x-rays right on site. Not only do x-rays show alignment and disc spaces in your neck, they also help us properly asses the low back curve. This can show is any degeneration is present, along with assessing the larger bones in the lower back like the pelvis and tailbone.
We also use x-rays to specifically locate which joints in your low back aren’t moving. This allows the doctors to know exactly what your back looks like before starting care, getting you better results even faster.
Chiropractors are trained to located and correct a subluxation. A subluxation occurs when a bone in your spine moves out of position and creates irritation to the surrounding nerves. Nerve irritation may present as low back pain, numbness or tingling or sharp pain down the back of the legs as sciatica.
Often, people that suffer from sciatica have a subluxation in the lower part of their low back. The nerves affected by this subluxation may send pain signals to the spine, causing pain. Chiropractors detect and correct this subluxation through an adjustment, which allows the nerves to function properly again. For many people, this provides instant relief.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Because the cause of sciatica varies for each person, it’s important to create a plan unique to that person. While the chiropractic adjustment is the most important thing that we do, we also want to make sure that you’re able to keep progressing at home. This means that we’ll create a plan to strengthen your muscles, correct imbalances and build on the results you’re getting in the office.
Common Causes of Sciatica Pain in Sun Prairie, WI
A misalignment of the spine, or subluxation is what chiropractors are trained to locate and correct. A subluxation is one of the most common causes of sciatica as the sciatic nerve exits through joints in the low back. When this bone isn’t in proper alignment, it can irritate the sciatic or surrounding nerves and cause pain, numbness or tingling. A chiropractor detects and corrects this subluxation, allowing the nerve to function normally and decrease pain.
Herniated Lumbar Discs
The spinal disc is a cushion between each vertebrae that helps to absorb shock to the spine. The outside of the disc is formed by circular fibers while the nucleus (inside) of the disc is looser and more jelly-like.
In a bulged disc, the outside fibers of the disc begin to tear and the nucleus moves toward outside of the disc. But if the fibers tear enough, the nucleus actually breaks through the disc and puts even more pressure on a spinal nerve, such as the sciatic nerve. Herniated discs tend to be more painful and cause more intense leg pain.
You may have heard that some herniated discs can resolve themselves. This is due to a process called phagocytosis, where the body reabsorbs the nucleus that has bulged outside of the disc. While we try to treat herniated discs as conservatively as possible, some people may use surgery a treatment option.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
The sacroiliac joint is where the sacrum (tailbone) meets your pelvis. The primary function of the SI joint is to absorb shock between the upper body and the pelvis and the legs. Unlike the rest of the spine, the SI joint has little motion so when it isn’t moving properly, it can cause pain. 15-30% of all low back cases are caused by SI joint dysfunction. Some causes of SI joint pain include leg length discrepancy, pregnancy, and repeatedly stressing the joints.
Degenerative Disc Disease
In a young and healthy person, the discs between the joints are thick and act as shock absorbers to the spine. Degenerative Disc Disease is an age-related condition where these discs break down. As a person ages, the discs naturally begin to break down or degenerate, meaning they get smaller and thinner. As the discs shrink, the holes (foramen) where the nerves exit also become smaller. This compresses the nerves and can cause sciatic pain from the lower back down the legs.
While degeneration cannot be reversed, its progression can be slowed down. Chiropractic care helps to keep the joints moving, taking pressure off the disc and may help alleviate symptoms. It’s incredibly important to address degeneration early on or even prevent it altogether by utilizing chiropractic care before symptoms begin.
Degeneration can occur in all parts of the spine, not just the discs or bones. The spinal canal, the tunnel-like part of the spine where the spinal cord travels through, can also narrow from degeneration. This narrowing is referred to as spinal stenosis and may put pressure on your spinal cord or the exiting nerves. This pressure on the nerves can cause sciatica and make walking or standing very painful. If you have spinal stenosis, sitting or bending forward may relieve the pain. When the spinal cord is involved, symptoms such as sciatica may be felt on both sides. Pain, numbness and tingling are also common complaints from spinal stenosis, along with potentially affecting organs that are innervated by these nerves. When this occurs, normal daily activities are very difficult to complete. By addressing spinal misalignments, chiropractic is a very good conservative treatment option to help alleviate spinal stenosis symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I see a doctor or chiropractor about sciatica?
If you are having sciatic pain, it is best to get checked out by a medical professional. A chiropractor would be the best choice if you prefer a natural, conservative approach. Often times this saves money by avoiding expensive medication or surgery.
What is the best treatment for sciatica?
Chiropractors are specially trained to detect the cause for your sciatica. Whether it is a disc, muscle or nerve that is causing your pain, the chiropractors at Noble Choice Chiropractic have the tools to treat it all.
How should I lay with sciatica?
Generally speaking, sleeping flat on your back is the best position for any type of low back pain including sciatica. This is because the spine is in neutral and has no pressure on the joints or nerves.
How long can sciatica last?
If left untreated, sciatica can last for months or even years. However, with proper care, sciatica pain usually improves in about 6 weeks while improved function can take months.
Can a chiropractor help with sciatica during pregnancy?
Absolutely! One of the most common complaints that we see for pregnant moms is sciatic pain. Chiropractic care is very effective in relieving this pain as well as ensuring the pelvis is in proper position for a more comfortable pregnancy and delivery.
Can stretching make sciatica worse?
If you are addressing the correct muscles that are aggravating your sciatic pain, then stretching can actually help. Stretching the glutes and piriformis muscle can alleviate some pain but depending on your symptoms, certain stretches can make you feel worse. This is why its necessary to be checked out by a chiropractor to ensure you’re at home care is appropriate for your sciatica.