The Sciatic Nerve
The longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve is actually a bundle of five nerves that exit from the lumbar spine and sacral foramen. These nerves group together at the piriformis muscle in the buttocks to form the one large sciatic nerve, which then travels down the back of each leg. The sciatic nerve provides strength and sensation to the legs and connects major muscles with the spinal cord. An impairment or issue with the sciatic nerve can cause muscle weakness, numbness and pain.
A Set of Symptoms, Not a Diagnosis
Often misunderstood, sciatica is not the cause of the irritation at the nerve root, rather it is a set of symptoms. Some of the conditions that cause sciatic pain:
- Herniated or slipped disc (most common cause)
- Piriformis syndrome (muscle in the buttocks becomes tight or spasms)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal creates pressure on nerves)
- Spondylolisthesis (slippage of a vertebra, narrowing the nerve exit)
- General wear and tear on the lower spine
Risk Factors for Sciatic Pain and Damage
As the body ages, risk increases for sciatic nerve issues due to age-related changes in the spine, such as herniated discs and bone spurs. (Another important reason why continuous and preventative chiropractic care is essential to spinal and overall health.) Obesity also can increase risk, as excess weight can contribute to spinal changes. Diabetes increases risk of nerve damage, and is another risk factor for sciatica. Other lifestyle factors such as occupation and prolonged sitting can play a role in the development of sciatica.
Supporting Research for Chiropractic and Sciatica
Whenever possible, opt for conservative treatments over more invasive and drastic measures, such as surgery. Chiropractic care and adjustments are a viable option for treating the pain and symptoms associated with sciatic nerve issues. A 2006 study published in Spine found that manipulations (adjustments) helped relieve pain due to acute back pain and sciatica. Another study published in 2010 found that sixty percent of sciatica patients (who hadn't found relief from other therapies) experienced the same level of relief from chiropractic adjustments as patients who eventually had surgery.Make an appointment to talk to a chiropractic doctor about chiropractic and sciatica.
Read on to learn more:
Chiropractic manipulation in the treatment of acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion: a randomized double-blind clinical trial of active and simulated spinal manipulations, Spine Journal, Feb. 2006
11 Highly Effective Solutions for Sciatica, Prevention.com, Mar. 2015
Safety of spinal manipulation in the treatment of lumbar disc herniations: a systematic review and risk assessment, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Mar. 2004
Chiropractic manipulation in low back pain and sciatica: statistical data on the diagnosis, treatment and response of 576 consecutive cases, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Mar. 1984