Recently, I had a patient named Kelsey, who came to me with lower back pain and sciatic nerve pain radiating into both legs. Since I have been in chiropractic practice for 37 years I was interested to see if I could help her. This article will describe the condition called sciatica and what can be done to bring sciatic nerve pain relief.
Many people suffer from lower back pain. Back discomfort, in itself, can be very uncomfortable. Sometimes, in addition to pain in the back, an additional insult occurs when pain starts radiating from the back down the leg. At its worse, it is one of the most painfully excruciating conditions one can experience.
Let’s delve into exactly what sciatica entails. We all know that nerves exit openings between the spinal bones. In the lowest part of the spine there are five nerves on each side which combine, in the area of the buttocks, into one large nerve. This is called the sciatic nerve. It is about the size of a finger and is the largest nerve in the body. It gives branches to other areas as it descends down the leg.
There are also intravertebral discs which are located between spinal bones. Problems occur when a disc bulges, protrudes or herniates backward and impinges on the sciatic nerve. This can also be called a “pinched nerve.”
When the sciatic nerve is pinched and becomes a painful condition we call it sciatic nerve pain, sciatic leg pain or just, sciatica.
Sciatica generally occurs in only one leg or the other. It’s more uncommon to see it in both legs.
As a chiropractor, I have seen many cases of patients suffering from sciatic nerve pain. To diagnose this condition, I first talk with them about the condition: where the pain is located, what caused the onset of the pain and when is it better or worse. Next, I’ll perform what are called orthopedic tests to confirm sciatica. Neurologic tests can help determine the severity of the condition. Imaging such as x-rays and MRIs may be of additional help.
To treat sciatica and bring pain relief, we employ a variety of therapies. Traction is especially helpful to reduce the disc bulge. Gentle, safe chiropractic spinal adjustments help to realign vertebrae and restore motion to joints that may be locked and not moving properly. Cold packs and electrical muscle stimulation can help to reduce inflammation and relax muscles in spasm. Exercises and lifestyle changes and modifications are important to follow.
While my patient Kelsey’s condition was slightly unusual because it was affecting both legs, I’m happy to report her treatment brought about complete pain relief of her lower back and sciatic nerve pain discomfort.