Sciatic Nerve Chiropractor

The Sciatic Nerve and SciaticaWhile most people associate chiropractors with the spine, they don’t always realize how impactful these providers can be when it comes to nerves and the nervous system. One of the spine’s main roles in the body is to facilitate the nervous system’s communication and ensure that the trillions of nerves involved are able to travel properly to the brain and back. When these nerves are interrupted, it can cause a wide variety of symptoms and discomfort. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and also one of the most likely to cause back pain, meaning that Conyers chiropractors often focus on this nerve. An experienced sciatic nerve chiropractor will be able to address the sciatic nerve and the pain it may cause when damaged.

The Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica

While some nerves are microscopic, the sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body and is formed by the union of 5 nerve roots stemming from the lower spine. It then passes through the buttock and down the back of the thigh, stretching all the way to the hell and through the sold of the foot. This nerve’s main role is to connect the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot.

While the sciatic nerve can be damaged, compressed, and irritated in a number of ways, any pain or neurological symptom that originates in the sciatic nerve is commonly known as sciatica. While sciatica is often discussed as a condition on its own, it usually results from another problem in the lower back.

Causes of Sciatica

The sciatic nerve can be affected by a variety of factors and conditions.

Mechanical Compression

Causes of SciaticaWhen physical force is directly applied to the sciatic nerve, it causes the nerve to become compressed and irritated. In rare cases, this can be caused by a tumor, cyst, infection, or abscess in the lower spine or pelvic region, but it is more commonly the result of spinal problems. Some spinal conditions that may lead to sciatic include:

  • Herniated discs in the lower back can bulge or rupture, spilling into the spinal canal and impeding on the sciatic nerve root.
  • Foraminal stenosis occurs when there is a narrowing of the intervertebral opening that the sciatic nerve travels through. When this narrowing is severe enough, it can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve. A similar effect can occur due to other degenerative changes in the spine, like a thickening of facet joint capsules and ligaments.
  • Segmental instability of a vertebral segment can allow a vertebra to slip below the one below it, or other dislocation of vertebra, may compress the sciatic nerve root.

Chemical Inflation

There is some evidence that chemical irritants can cause inflammation and irritation in the sciatic nerve. Common examples include hyaluronic acid and fibronectin (protein) fragments that may have leaked from degenerated or herniated discs. In some cases, the degenerated discs can cause nerve tissue to grow into the disc, penetrating both the inner and outer layer of the disc and causing sciatica.

Immune system responses are also believed to play a role in sciatic pain when there is an exposure of disc material from a herniated disc. Substances such as glycosphingolipids (fats) and neurofilaments (protein polymers) that are secreted by the immune system have been shown to be elevated in those suffering from sciatica. These substances are believed to be released due to the reaction between nerve roots and exposed disc material and may cause additional inflation of the sciatic nerve.

Risk Factors

A person can have physical characteristics that increase the change of sciatic nerve pain. Both overweight individuals and those who are above average height may be more likely to develop sciatica as a result of increased pressure on the spine. Women also have been shown to be more likely to develop sciatica and have slower recoveries in severe cases. Contrastly, men are more likely to need invasive treatment like surgery to recover from the condition.

Genetic factors may also play a role in the degeneration of intervertebral discs, this making sciatica more likely. These genetic factors can alter the structure and function of collagen proteins within the disc, leading it to weaken and deteriorate more quickly.

Certain occupations also place people at a higher risk of developing sciatic pain, including those who sit for long periods of time like truck drivers and people who frequently bend and lift heavy items.

Diabetic individuals and those with a chronic deficiency of vitamin B12 can also be prone to sciatic pain, as the vitamin helps to promote nerve function and impulse conduction.

Signs of SciaticaSigns of Sciatica

Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy, or pain caused by the compression of a spinal nerve root. In this case, any nerve roots from L4 to S3 can cause the symptoms, which typically affect one or more regions of the lower back, thigh, leg, and foot.

The first sign of sciatic is usually pain resulting from nerve irritation or inflammation. The pain is typically described as sharp, burning, or searing and will affect one side of the body. However, pain can also be electric shock-like, throbbing or pulsating, a constant dull ache, or other types of discomfort. It is possible for the pain to alternate between sides of the body, but rarely will it be present on both sides at one time.

Neurological symptoms may also be present, along with sciatic nerve pain. Examples of these side effects include:

  • Weakness in the thigh muscles, especially when trying to bring the thighs together.
  • Weakness in the leg and foot muscles, especially when pointing the foot or toes upward or downward. This can lead to a foot drop, or difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot while walking. There may also be difficulty rising from a sitting position or walking on tiptoes.
  • Numbness in the side of the calf, heel, sole of the foot, or top of the foot.
  • Paresthesia, an abnormal sensation felt on the skin as a result of improper nerve conduction. This can include tingling, tightness, pins and needles, or a crawling feeling, usually along the back of the thigh or the rest of the leg.

Managing Sciatic Nerve Pain

Very mild cases of sciatica may resolve on their own with home treatment, though most do not. If you notice an onset of symptoms, there are some natural methods you can use to manage pain in the first few days when it may resolve. The most effective options include:

  • Be sure to break up any long periods of sitting to move. Set timers if you need to.
  • Do low impact exercises, like crunches, to build core and back strength.
  • Stretch your hamstrings and hip muscles.
  • Use ice packs in short bursts throughout the day.
  • Use hot packs or warm water.
  • Try yoga.
  • Get a massage to loosen tight muscles.
  • Use over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen to reduce pain and address inflammation.

Any symptoms of sciatica should be evaluated and treated by a sciatic nerve chiropractor who can determine the root cause of the pain. The majority of cases will not resolve on their own and can worsen over time, even if the symptoms seem to disappear for a period.

If your pain lasts more than a week, worsens every day, does not improve with home remedies, or causes weakness, it is important to seek care as soon as possible.

Chiropractic Care for SciaticaChiropractic Care for Sciatica

Treating sciatica early can help avoid a progression of symptoms by addressing the underlying cause of the pain and seeking to reverse any damage. When these problems are caught early, non-surgical intervention is usually sufficient to resolve sciatic pain and associated symptoms. A chiropractor for sciatica will be able to identify the location of sciatic irritation and create a treatment plan consisting of chiropractic care and other non-invasive therapies.

Spinal manipulation, also known as chiropractic adjustments, can be the main part of many treatment plans for sciatic pain. This focuses on aligning the spine so that the vertebrae are stacked as they should be and discs are able to properly absorb shock. When underlying conditions are treated through chiropractic adjustments, not only are symptoms relieved. but there is also a lower chance of recurrence.

To be most effective, care from a sciatica chiropractor can be paired with other non-surgical therapies and treatments to ensure a holistic approach to care. The most common is physical therapy, which focuses on strengthening the spine and muscles in the lower back, abdomen, buttocks, and hips. By increasing core strength and bringing more flexibility to these muscles, the body is not only able to return to a state of alignment, but the spine is better prepared to avoid the same issue in the future.

Physical therapy is generally composed of a series of exercises that can be completed alongside regular chiropractic adjustments and continued at home. These exercises may start out as being a means of managing pain and evolve into a plan to mitigate any underlying conditions and risk factors that caused the issue to begin with.

Alongside these modalities, medication is often used to manage early pain and ensure that symptoms are relieved enough to carry out exercises and basic movement. Medication can range from over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to prescription pain medication and muscle relaxers. A medical professional should always oversee any medications you are taking, especially if there are multiple or potential chemical elements to your diagnosis.

In more severe cases, lumbar therapeutic injections are a more lasting option to provide pain relief. When the pain and symptoms of sciatica are preventing a patient from adequately participating in things like physical therapy, these can be a great option. Epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks are commonly used in these scenarios.

When overseen by an experienced chiropractor for sciatica, a combination of these therapies is usually sufficient to reverse the compression of the sciatic nerve and reduce or eliminate symptoms enough to be considered successful.

Beyond Chiropractic Care

In uncommon cases, leg pain and weakness can be progressive and persistent despite the best courses of treatment being used. This is when surgery may be considered, unless there is a mitigating factor like tumors that indicates it should be used earlier.

The goal of surgery will be to eliminate the cause of sciatica and control symptoms as much as possible. There are two types of surgeries most commonly used in these cases:

  • Microdiscectomy is a procedure that addresses sciatica caused by a herniated disc. A small part of the disc material will be removed from the area surrounding the nerve root to relieve compression and irritation. If this cannot be done, the disc could be removed entirely and replaced with an artificial disc, or the vertebrae can be fused together in that location.
  • Decompression surgeries can take a number of approaches to relieve compression and irritation of the nerve root. This may involve removing sections of the spine, removing bony growths, or trimming the facet joints.

It is possible for multiple procedures to be performed at one time. For example, a lamioforaminotomy is a procedure that combines the removal of the lamina and the removal of a bony overgrowth. The decision to have any procedure or procedures will be made by the patient and their provider based on the risks, benefits, and quality of life without the surgery.

As surgery can be risky in any scenario, it is best that all other treatment options are exhausted first, including chiropractic care. At AICA Conyers, our team includes both chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons who can work together to determine when surgery may be appropriate and what procedures are best suited to each case.

The AICA Conyers team also includes physical therapists, pain management specialists, neurologists, and other experts who will work together on one interconnected team to determine the treatment approach suited to each patient. This comprehensive approach ensures that we identify the root cause of your sciatic nerve pain and use all possible methods to treat your symptoms, as well as prevent it from recurring in the future. Contact AICA Conyers today to begin the path towards relief from the pain with help from your sciatica chiropractor.