When you hear about someone’s back pain, you often hear the word sciatica associated with it. While sciatica is often associated with low back pain/leg pain, it’s best to identify the source of the pain. Sciatica is a symptom, not a diagnosis. The good news? Doctors of chiropractic are experts in neuromusculoskeletal conditions and often help you find relief through chiropractic care.
Sciatica is the description of traveling or radiating leg pain that’s associated with some low back conditions. The pain travels down the largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve, which extends from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. Sciatic pain typically travels down one or both legs in a certain pattern.
Depending on where the pain is located, sciatica can be lumbar (lower back), sacral (below the lumbar spine and above the tailbone), or lumbosacral radiculopathy. In this condition, one or more nerve roots have a functional impairment.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Common Causes of Sciatica
Additional irritants include excess weight, not exercising regularly, wearing high heels, or sleeping on a too soft mattress.
Although most people recover fully from sciatica, often without extensive treatment, sciatica can potentially cause permanent nerve damage.
Specific symptoms include:
Conservative care is often recommended first, whether the pain is originating from a (low back) lumbar disc or a tight muscle in the gluteal region. Doctors of chiropractic treat these pain patterns with a non-drug, non-surgery approach.
Chiropractors use many different manual therapies to treat patients with chronic pain, including spinal manipulative therapy. However, any care plan recommended by your doctor of chiropractic would come after a comprehensive physical assessment and a review of your medical history.
About 40% of people in the U.S. are likely to experience sciatica at some point. Interestingly, sciatica is three times more likely in men than in women. Sciatica is thought to be more prevalent in adults age 65 or older, but it’s most common in adults in their 40s and 50s.
Risk factors for sciatica pain include:
Age. Age-related changes in the spine. These can be herniated disks and bone spurs, the most common causes of sciatica.
Obesity. Excess body weight, which increases the stress on your spine, can contribute to the spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
Occupation. A job that requires you to twist your back, carry heavy loads, or drive a motor vehicle for extended periods might play a role in sciatica, but there’s no conclusive evidence of this link.
Prolonged sitting. People who sit for prolonged periods or have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop sciatica than active people.
Diabetes. This condition, which affects how your body uses blood sugar, increases your risk of nerve damage.
Sometimes, what feels like sciatica pain isn’t. (Again, a good reason to see your doctor of chiropractic.)
Want to keep your back working the way it should? In addition to chiropractic care to ensure proper spinal and joint biomechanics, the following actions can help:
1. Exercise regularly.
To keep your back strong, pay special attention to your core muscles — the muscles in your abdomen and lower back that are essential for proper posture and alignment. Ask your chiropractor to recommend specific activities.
2. Maintain proper sitting posture.
Choose a chair with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Consider placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to maintain its normal curve. Your knees and hips should be level.
3. Use good body mechanics.
When you stand for long periods, seek to rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. When you lift something heavy, let your lower extremities do the work. Keep your back straight and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body and avoid lifting and twisting while you lift. If an object is heavy or awkward, get a lifting partner.
Daily stretching and strengthening exercises may help to prevent sciatica flare-ups. Perform these three exercises daily after an episode ends or as your doctor of chiropractic recommends.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC), founded in 1922, is a private, nonprofit, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas. The CUKC on-campus Chiropractic Health Center offers a natural course of healthcare, seeking to heal the body from within and not using prescription medicine.
Our Health Center is open to the public and treats patients from Kansas City’s 15-county metro area. Our mission is to provide next-level chiropractic care and solutions for a better, more productive life for our patients.