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Help, I’ve got sciatica?

Help, I’ve got sciatica?

What causes sciatica?

One of the most common things people complain of, when the come to see us, is sciatica.  When we ask where is hurts, some point to their leg, some to their back and a few to their shoulder. Clearly not everyone is clear exactly what it is, so what is sciatica?  Sciatica is not, strictly speaking, a medical diagnosis, it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition.  It is a lay term for pain that extends down the leg; pain that can really, really, really hurt!

Common symptoms of sciatica:

  • Most often it starts in the lower back and travels into the thigh; it can travel further down the leg to the foot and toes
  • Sciatica is not only felt as pain, it can be felt as a burning or tingling sensation
  • In advanced cases there can be numbness or weakness of the leg muscles
  • Sciatica mostly affects one leg, rarely does it affect both

What causes sciatica?

A bit of anatomy to begin with.  Sciatica gets its name from the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve runs from your low back down each of your legs to your toes.  It is formed from the nerve roots (nerves that come out of the spine) L4-S3 at the bottom of the spine.  All these nerve roots join together to form the largest nerve in the human body; about the size of your index and middle finger together.  The sciatic nerves feeds each of your legs with messages from the brain and back again.  This allows you to move your legs and walk, feel sensation when something touches your leg, quickly move your leg away when you stand on your kids Lego in the dark, and so much more!  In conclusion, it’s a very big and important nerve. sciatic nerve

The most common causes of sciatica:

  • A trapped nerve in the lumbar spine affecting the sciatic nerve
  • A disc herniation – one of the discs in the spine bulges out to the side (‘slipped disc’) and presses on the lower lumber nerve roots (that form the sciatic nerve)
  • Piriformis syndrome – the piriformis is a muscle in your buttocks that the sciatic nerve runs under, and sometimes through, and if it gets tight it can irritate the sciatic nerve
  • Trigger point referral – knots in the muscles of the buttocks or low back, called trigger points, can cause the sensation of pain down the leg (referral) that can mimic sciatica

 

How do you treat sciatica?

With the causes listed above, in my humble opinion, a combination of Chiropractic adjustments, massage, stretching and cryotherapy (using an ice pack or Biofreeze).  With this approach you are addressing any misalignments of the spine and pelvis through the Chiropractic adjustments; this takes the pressure off the nerves and aides the recovery of any disc herniation (‘slipped disc’).  Massage relaxes the tight muscles around the spine and the piriformis if needed, this encourages what the Chiropractic adjustments are doing and relaxes any trigger points in the muscles of the lower back and buttocks.  The stretching helps between seeing your Chiropractor + sports massage therapist, and the ice pack reduces the inflammation around the nerve, again aiding a speedier recovery. An important final note.  The symptom sciatica can be caused by serious underlying complaints and should be checked thoroughly by a trained physician who performs a complete physical examination of your muscles and joints and neurological examination of your nerves.  If you have any change in your bowel or bladder habits (unusually can’t control or go!) or numbness in your ‘saddle’ area, coupled with severe back or leg pain, then you potentially have something called ‘cauda equina’.  This is a medical emergency and you should contact the emergency services straight away. As a Chiropractor it is our job to ensure that the complaint you have is a Chiropractic case.  At The Chiropractic Centre: Bristol we ensure that we give you the best treatment and advice to help you with your sciatica, and in those few cases that we feel that physical interventions like Chiropractic and massage are not the most suitable option, we refer you to the person who is right for you.





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  • Malik

    I’ve had sciatica for 2 years now I first realised this while I was giving birth to my son the midwife told me it’s normal a few months the doc said its because I had the baby it’ll go away after a self diagnose I went back to the doctor who then told me its sciatica serve months on end in physio no help at all now I can’t tolerate the pain I need help can someone please help me the pain level today is a 9.5 out of 1-10 I really need help I’m a young mum and I can’t live like this the pain is too much I end up crying in agony my son is 18 months and very active and keep me on my toes all day so it doesn’t help with the pain is anyone who can help me

  • Lori

    My daughter in law is suffering from severe lower back pain and we don’t know what to do, we have taken her to the hospital and they have just give her shots of pain killers but that’s only a temporary relief, she lives in Rancho Cucamonga CA I would like to take her to a good chiropractor, can you please recommend one. Thank you

  • Glenn

    I’ve had lower back problems on and off for years and am at the point where I just ignore the pain. However, I recently had an onset of excruciating pain in my thigh which resulted in me being rushed to A & E. They have given me strong pain killers but the underlying problem is still present but they don’t know the cause. I’ve had an X-ray, DVT scan both showing no problems. They now want me to have a MRI scan. Are they missing something here and does this sound like it could be sciatica ?

  • phillip

    Hi I would like to know if I suffer from sciatica I have pain at the bottom of my back and sometimes I find it hard to stand And the pain hurts and I have numbness in my left thigh and shooting pain down my leg.ive had this just over a year now and it’s getting worse and I’ve had to stop weight training and boxing who would be the best person to see please thank you

  • Lizzie

    I so wish I lived in Bristol
    I’m in St Austell cornwall, would you know of a practice like yours in my area.
    Many thanks
    Lizzie

    • Charles Herbert

      Hello Lizzie,
      Thank you for your comment. I’m afraid I don’t know any Chiropractors near you. Check out our governing website for any local Chiropractors (http://www.gcc-uk.org/) or move to Bristol. 🙂
      Charlie