Sciatica refers to lower back pain that develops from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and travels from the lower back down the back of each leg. When compressed or irritated the sciatic nerve can cause pain that will radiate from its origin in the lumbar spine (lower back) through the buttocks down the back of the leg and possibly into the feet and toes.
The sensation of sciatica varies among patients, however it is usually felt in one leg and is described as tingling and/or burning or prickling. The intensity of pain can also vary with some patients experiencing debilitating pain while others experience irritating pain. Sciatic pain may be aggravated by postures and/or activities that increase lumbar intervertebral disc pressure or cause further compression or irritation of the nerve. Many patients find sitting, bending forward, walking, and driving to be aggravating factors.
The four most common causes of sciatica that I regularly treat in my practice are:
Lumbar Disc Herniation
A herniated disc occurs when the inner portion of the disc know as the “nucleus pulposus” herniates or travels through the disc wall known as the “annulus”. The herniation of lumbar intervertebral discs can compress the spinal nerve root causing sciatic pain down the leg.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The Sacroiliac joint or commonly called the “SI joint” is located at the base of the spine. When there is a dysfunction of the SI joint it can irritate the L5 spinal nerve that sits on top of it causing sciatic-type pain.
After the sciatic nerve leaves the lower back it travels under a deep muscle in the buttocks called the Piriformis. If the Piriformis spasms it can compress the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica-type pain. When sciatica-type pain is caused by the impingement of the sciatic nerve by the Piriformis muscle this condition is called Piriformis syndrome and is not considered true sciatica.
As one or more of the lumbar intervertebral discs begin to degenerate due to aging or injury, proteins from inside the disc can be released and irritate the adjacent spinal nerves resulting in sciatic pain.
When dealing with sciatica, rest should be the first treatment approach and surgery the last. If there is no reduction in pain with rest alone a combination of Chiropractic and Traditional Acupuncture is one of the most effective treatment strategies for sciatic pain.
For any questions or to book a free 15 minute consultation, please contact my office at (250) 860 – 2212 or visit my website www.kelownaacupunctureclinic.com
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.