Everyone has heard of sciatica. But not everybody knows exactly what it is.
Have you had sharp pains in your hip that go down the back of your leg?
Just hearing the word "sciatica" is enough. Who do you look to and where should you go?
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a general term used to describe a couple symptoms that occur when a couple nerves from the lumbar spine are irritated.
Frequent symptoms are a stabbing, burning, or shooting sensation in the hip. You will sometimes experience pins and needles down your rear, into the back of your legs or feet along with numbness or muscle weakness.
Sciatica is sometimes associated with back pain but not all the time.
What causes Sciatica?
Easy answer? Anything that irritates the sciatic nerve. Everybody's sciatica is unique.
Without knowing your story or your past injury history, it is difficult to understand your cause. Here are a couple ways your sciatic nerve can become irritated:
1) Lumbar disc bulge/herniation - This is the most common cause of sciatica. This occurs where a disc between the bones of your back start to push back and pinch on one of the nerves. This does not mean that the disc has "popped out" or "slipped" but has started to bulge backwards.
2) Muscular tightness - This is mostly known as "piriformis syndrome". This is because the sciatic nerve is very close to the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis muscle gets too tight, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
3) Spondylolisthesis - This happens when a vertebrae slips forward. This in turn may put pressure on the nerves. The most common type of spondylolisthesis are:
Congenital - From birth, a baby's spine may not completely form. This can put the vertebrae at a higher chance of slippage later on in life.
Degenerative - Over time the discs between the bones of the back lose water. This loss of water causes them to thin, which can increase the shift of the bone above.
4) Stenosis - There are 2 forms of stenosis, both caused by advanced arthritis:
Foraminal - A decrease in size of the hole where the lumbar nerve roots exits, increasing the likelihood it will compress.
Central - A narrowing of the central spinal canal, which places pressure on the spinal cord.
Is Sciatica Serious?
While painful, most of the time sciatica does not mean any serious pathology.
Like muscles, nerves can become irritated! So just because you have sciatic symptoms does make it hard to treat or cause for worry.
Sciatic symptoms will settle after about 6-12 weeks with the correct set of exercises. While a "disc bulge" is sacry, this does not mean anything serious has occured! Up to two-thirds of disc bulges will spontaneously heal.
Will I Need Surgery?
A small percentage of patients will need surgery. The best course of action is to do a course of conservative therapy with a chiropractor or physical therapist.
The rehab process takes some time, but will make great progress as long as you trust the process.
How is Sciatica Diagnosed?
The quickest and easiest way is to get in touch with one of our therapists. They will diagnose the issue based on your symptoms through an assessment. There is usually no need for further imaging such as X-ray or MRI.
How Do You Treat Sciatica?
This depends on the person. Each case of sciatica is unique, so we need to make sure the treatment plan is designed for you. At Capital Sports Medicine we'll pay particular attention to your story.
Your story will help us understand what area is working too hard, and what is not doing enough.
A majority of our time will be focused on treating the root cause of the problem. But we will take time to help ease your symptoms.
Don't Suffer With Sciatica
Sciatica can be painful and exhausting when trying to manage alone. It can decrease your quality of life, and keep you from working and enjoying your life.
You don't have to suffer alone. We want to help. All you have to do is book an appointment and start your journey back to a pain-free life today.
Call us at 301-328-0186 to book your first assessment right now.