How many times have you heard someone tell you that their sciatica is acting up? I know I have heard it many times over. The only problem is this, most of the time it is not true sciatica. Most of the time it is just low level pain down the back of the thigh that is more uncomfortable that anything else.
Unfortunately, I have had true sciatica and I hope I never have it again. The fact that I have had it and that I am a Chiropractor does make it nice to be able to understand what people are going through when they do have true sciatica, because it is very painful and debilitating. I was very fortunate to be practicing in my father’s office at the time and was able to be in the office every day with him working on me. And to just show you how spoiled I actually am, I am also married to a chiropractor and went home every day to my wife, the other Dr. Maltby. This constant attention and working on my low back helped me get over it in about four days.
What is the sciatic nerve? The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body that begins on either side of your spine and travels down the back of each thigh. It is considered a mixed nerve because it deals with movement and sensation. There are five nerve roots that come together to form your sciatic nerve, three from your sacrum and two from your lumbar spine. When your sciatic nerve reaches the back of your knees it splits into two main branches:
- Common peroneal nerve: runs down the outside of you knee, leg and foot
- Tibial Nerve: runs down the back of your leg, heel and bottom of your foot.
There are also several smaller branches that go to other places in your thigh, leg and foot. This is only a very simple description of the sciatic nerve anatomy, but this hopefully gives you an idea as to why it is so important and how it can cause so many structures to be in pain when it is “pinched.”
If you have true sciatica you are going to have pain, numbness and tingling sensations from your low back/upper thigh area all the way down to your foot and toes. It is usually only down one leg. The pain is usually sharp and shooting. What makes true sciatica so bad is that there does not ever seem to be a position that makes the pain better, and the throbbing nature of it is constant.
The most common treatments for sciatica include pain killers, muscle relaxers, stretching and in some extreme cases surgery. I would not personally recommend any of these. First off, pain killers are only masking the symptoms in the hopes that when you stop taking them, the issue will have resolved itself without any effort. I have never been a fan of muscle relaxers because they are not specific. This means that when you take a muscle relaxer that pill is not going to target the muscles you are taking it for, that pill is going to cause all muscles to relax. This might not seem like a big deal if you are in a lot of pain, but remember your heart is one big muscle and I personally do not want it to relax too much.
Surgery is only an extreme last resort. You should look long and hard at every single possibility before you decided to get surgery for something like sciatica. Surgery is an invasive procedure that can lead to many other issues in the future. I am not saying that surgery is never a good thing, I am only saying that it is not something that should be considered unless every other option has failed already.
Seeking a chiropractor for sciatica is a safe and effective route that millions of people have benefited from. Here at White Pine Chiropractic I use a combination of adjustments and Class IV laser therapy to get you up and moving as quick as possible. I take detailed and specific x-rays to determine exactly which way your spine has moved out of position and then adjust you according to what I find on those x-rays. I say detailed and specific x-rays because when I take x-rays I draw lines and measure specific angels in order to customized each adjustment to you. I do not take x-rays just to scare you and use them as a tool to try and sell you a big package plan or care. My treatment plans are always based on how well your body is responding to care.
The Class IV laser is amazing at treating pain and inflammation, which is one of the major causes of sciatica. One of the reasons sciatica can happen is from inflammation of the muscles surrounding sciatic nerve in the upper thigh. If you have had sciatica I bet you could point to where this is, usually this spot in the upper thigh is were the pain is beginning before it travels down the back of the rest of the leg. This point of origin for the pain is not necessarily why, or the cause, of the sciatica. There is a phenomenon called referred pain, which is where an injury is one place but the pain is another. This is more common than most people think and I already wrote about this in a pervious blog post called “Why won’t my back pain go away?”
Sciatica can be a painful and debilitating issue that can stop you in your racks. There is help and I have helped many, many people with it. It also does not have to be a reoccurring issue. Once the cause of the sciatica is taken care of there are things that you can do to make sure it does not come back. I am here to help make sure that it does not.