Managing Sciatica Pain in Chicago
Sciatica is a painful condition that may limit your ability to walk, sit, stand, or even lie down without pain. However, chiropractic care offers relief for many sufferers of sciatic pain.
What is sciatica?
The word “sciatica” refers to the pinching or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates in the lower back. It travels out of your spine, down through your buttock (there is one sciatic nerve on each side of your body), deep behind the muscle, and down the back of your leg to the back of your ankle. Through the sciatic nerve, your central nervous system controls most of the skin on your legs, the muscles on the back of your thigh, and the most of the muscles and skin of your foot. This is why a wide range of symptoms may be labeled as sciatica. Pain the in thigh, tingling in the foot, numbness in the lower leg – all of these symptoms might be causes by a problem with the sciatic nerve.
What are the most common causes of sciatica?
In general, sciatica is caused by a compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve, anywhere along its route between your lower back and your heel. This “kink in the nerve,” as some people colloquially call it, could be the result of a number of different issues, some of which are:
- Bulging or herniated discs in your spine
- Degeneration of spinal discs
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Spondylolisthesis (when one or more vertebrae are out of line with the natural curve of the spine)
- Piriformis syndrome (when the piriformis muscle in buttocks presses on the sciatic nerve)
- Muscles that are tight or out of place due to natural formation, injury, or overuse, that press on the sciatic nerve
How can chiropractic treat sciatica?
Even though sciatica is a symptom and not a condition, we often speak of “treating sciatica.” In fact, even on our website, you’ll notice that we’ve nested sciatica under the heading of “conditions”! Actually, there is no one single way to treat sciatica because there are many different reasons someone might be experiencing sciatica (see our list above of some of the possible causes of sciatica).
When you see a chiropractor for sciatica, your doctor will first perform an examination in order to determine what may be causing your sciatica. Once your doctor establishes the underlying cause of your sciatica, he or she can then treat that underlying cause, which will relieve you sciatic pain. For instance, if a bulging or herniated disc is causing your sciatica, your course of treatment may be very different than if a tight periformis muscle is causing the problem. You can read more about our treatments for bulging and herniated discs – and also how preventative chiropractic care can stave off the development of bulging and herniated discs. Alternately, a tight periformis muscle that causes sciatica might be best treated by deep massage, the application of heat and/or cold, electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) therapy, and a course of home stretching exercises.
The goal of chiropractic care for sciatica is to first establish the underlying problem and then, if possible, treat the underlying condition with the least invasive methods possible. Conversely, traditional medical treatments for sciatica generally include taking over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, and, in sever cases, surgery. It is our hope that when you first begin to experience sciatica, you will seek our assistance and that we will be able to relieve your pain before the underlying condition progresses to a point where more invasive measures are needed.
Did you know?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body!
Sciatica Throughout History
- Hippocrates, the Greek physician who lived around 300 BC, wrote extensively about sciatica and noted that it was more prevalent among the wealthy classes. He attributed this to the fact that wealthier citizens rode horses more often than poorer people. While his understanding of the workings of the spine and nerves is much different from what we understand today, the connection between horseback riding and sciatica was probably not that far off. The jarring motion, the constant flexing of large thigh muscles, and the prolonged seating associated with horseback riding could very well trigger some of the conditions which sciatica is a symptom of.
- Pre-modern Celtic and British societies referred to sciatica as the “elf’s arrow.” Similar to how it might feel to be struck with a tiny but powerful arrow, sciatica can come on suddenly and powerfully, and include shooting pain down the leg. Similarly, early Germans called sciatica “Hexenschuss” – which means “witch’s shot.”
- In some more remote areas of the world today, sciatica is still considered the work of an evil spirit.