Dr. Matthew Roe via NaturalHealth365 – Sciatica pain can cause severe and debilitating pain along with tingling, burning, numbness and weakness of the legs. Sciatica usually occurs when the sciatica nerve is irritated or compressed by a problem in the lower back sending pain down the buttock, hamstring, calf and foot.
This is a serious health issue. It is estimated that 40% of the population will experience some degree of sciatica pain in their lifetime. Sciatica pain can vary and encompasses mild cramping, a tightening sensation in the hamstring or calf muscles to an all out constant shooting pain from the buttock down to the foot.
And, in case you’re wondering: the sciatic nerve runs from the lower part of the spine down the back of both legs forming what can be though of as an electrical cable to and from the brain.
What Exactly Causes Sciatica?
When the upper cervical spine is misaligned, it puts pressure on the nerve channel that travels all the way down the back and to the sciatic nerve. This happens when the head and neck are off balance and the body is compensating by raising one shoulder and one hip thus putting pressure on the lower back.
Pressure is also caused by the shortening and tightening of the piriformis muscle. This is almost always due to months or years of muscle imbalances in the hip rotator muscles.
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint. This muscle is important in lower body movement because it stabilizes the hip joint and lifts and rotates the thigh away from the body. This is what enables us to walk, shift our weight from one foot to another, and maintain balance.
Basically, the piriformis is used in almost every motion of the hips and legs.
To Avoid Pain: Understand the Cause
A study in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, published in 2005, showed that about 70 percent of sciatica cases are caused by the pirifomis muscle. If the piriformis is tight (and it often is), it exerts pressure on the sciatic nerve and pushes it against the tendons beneath it, which can cause excruciating pain; this is known as the “piriformis syndrome.”
Other causes include spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back; degeneration disc disease, the breakdown of cushions between the vertebrae; a herniated or bulging disc; or back injury.
Spondylolisthesis, which can causes sciatica pain, is a slippage of one vertebra so that it is out of line with the one above it, narrowing the opening through which the sciatica nerve exits.
What Is the Best Way to Treat Sciatica?
Obviously, weight management, physical activity such as walking and stretching and avoiding prolonged sitting are essential components to pain-free living.
One of the most overlooked causes of sciatica is poor posture, which increases the compression of the sciatic nerve. When standing or sitting keep the back straight and shoulders back – to relieve some of the pressure.
When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees or when on your side, place a pillow between your knees – to relieve pressure.
Adjust the height of chairs – so your feet are flat on the floor and the knees are a little higher than the hips. Keep your feet flat on the floor and do not cross your legs when sitting. You may also want to lie on the floor with a heating pad for relaxation purposes.
Should I stretch?
The quick answer is yes!
There are specific stretching exercises that are helpful. Exercises which stretch the hamstrings are needed. Most low back pain and sciatica problems will benefit from a regular routine of hamstring stretching.
Tightness in the hamstrings places increased stress on the low back and often aggravates or even causes some of the conditions that lead to low back pain and/or sciatica pain.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located in the back of the thigh. They run from the pelvis down to the knee, and help bend the knee and extend the hip.
Most daily activities do not stretch the hamstrings – which causes them to become tight and specific stretching exercises are needed to keep them healthy and extended.
Relieve Back Pain with Massage and Physical Therapy
Massage is a wonderful tool as is some specific yoga exercises. Yoga is considered therapeutic and should be done when the movements are easy to perform. Key point: don’t overdo it.
Physical therapy exercises incorporating strengthening, stretching, and aerobic conditioning are often components of a good sciatica treatment program. For example, the goal of chiropractic care is to restore spinal movement, thereby improving function while decreasing pain and inflammation.
Depending on the cause of the sciatica, a chiropractic treatment will use spinal adjustments along with ice/heat therapy, and rehabilitative exercises for maximum results.
What Is Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care?
Upper cervical chiropractic treatments allow the body to correct a spinal misalignment – which drastically increases the pressure on the discs of the low back. It doesn’t correct the spine with any snapping, popping or twisting of the neck or back.
The adjustments are not only safe and effective but gentle. When in the mist of a sciatica flare-up, it is important not to use vigorous manual adjustments because pressure to an inflamed nerve can create more irritation.
So while chiropractor care is typically used to help with sciatica pain it is also important to note that nerves are extremely sensitive to compression. Remember, while suffering with severe back pain, gentle chiropractic adjustments can be quite beneficial.
About the author: Dr. Matthew Roe is a practicing upper cervical chiropractor and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Science. He has a Doctor of Chiropractic degree graduating Cum Laude from Life University College of Chiropractic. Having studied with the best Upper Cervical specific doctors in the world he understands true healing. His practice focus is to help people fine true health naturally. For more information about Dr. Roe – visit: WinterGardenChiropractors.com