08/24/2023 by Dr. Goldi Jacques-Maynes
Sciatica: Overcoming Pain
Does this sound familiar to you?
You wake up, the sun is shining, and you're excited about the day ahead. As you arrive at work, your mood remains high.
Then, later in the morning, during a meeting, a sudden twinge of discomfort shoots through your lower back and down your leg.
You shift uncomfortably in your chair, trying to ignore the growing sensation of pain. By the time you get up, the pain has intensified, making each step an effort.
What was supposed to be a productive day quickly turns into a struggle. Navigating your tasks while dealing with your sciatica symptoms is starting to make your day quite difficult.
Luckily, chiropractic can really help ease your sciatica pain and discomfort.
What is sciatica, and what causes it?
The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in your body, traveling from your lower spine down the back of each of your legs, all the way to your toes.
The sciatic nerve connects your spinal cord to your lower leg and feet muscles, as well as to your hamstring and the outside of your thigh. This nerve generates sensation and strength in your legs, and is also responsible for triggering your leg reflexes.
When this nerve gets damaged or experiences pressure, you get sciatica.
A common cause of sciatica is a lumbar disc herniation (also called a ruptured or bulging disc) that occurs when the shock-absorbing pad between your vertebrae bulges through its external casing and impinges the nerve root.
A note for weightlifters: Weight lifting increases load on your bulging disc, which can aggravate your sciatica.
Other sources of sciatica pain may be:
- tight piriformis muscle in the buttocks
- bone spur on the spine
- lumbar spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- degenerative disc disease
- muscle spasms
Sports activities and sports injuries can cause sciatica.
You can experience sciatica from your favorite sports activity though muscle strains and joint injuries.
Trauma to your lower back or repetitive movements can also trigger sciatica.
Whether it's the impact of contact sports like football and rugby, or the repetitive motions of golf, pickleball, surfing or cycling, athletes are at risk of straining or compressing the sciatic nerve.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The symptoms of sciatica vary and are as diverse as the types of patients we see here in our office.
Often sciatica is a sharp, hot, lightning bolt-like sensation that travels from your low back down into your toes. It feels worse when putting weight on the affected leg.
The symptoms of sciatica can also include:
- Radiating pain in the lower back to the hips and legs
- Muscle weakness
- Limited mobility
How do chiropractors diagnose sciatica?
We conduct thorough examinations to identify the root cause of your pain and discomfort. This includes taking a medical history and listening closely to your symptoms.
We’ll also conduct a physical exam, likely checking your muscle strength and reflexes.
We may also recommend imaging tests to get a clear picture of your condition.
How do chiropractors treat sciatica?
Our chiropractors will tailor your treatment plan to address your individual needs. We may use:
- chiropractic adjustments
- myofascial release to decrease tension in tight muscles
- stretches and exercises to mobilize the sciatic nerve
Sciatica Fun Fact
Most of the time, the sciatic nerve runs underneath the piriformis muscle (the main hip external rotator muscle in your glutes).
However, 5-15% of people have a sciatic nerve that pierces right through their piriformis muscle!
This is why we recommend soft tissue/myofascial release work to the piriformis when you're experiencing sciatica symptoms.
How long does it take a chiropractor to fix sciatica?
Most patients can expect gradual improvement with chiropractic treatment. Becoming completely pain-free can take a few days, weeks or months. It really depends on your condition, how long you’ve had it, and how your body heals.
Rest assured that you WILL get back to your daily routine with confidence. It’s a matter of giving your body what it needs to heal, and following your treatment plan, or having us adjust it as needed.
How do you know your sciatica is improving?
You will feel that the sharp, shooting pain is not going as far down the leg. Maybe now it is only traveling into your glute. Before you know it, the pain is gone! We call this "centralizing"—meaning the sciatica isn't radiating as much.
What is the best self-care for athletic and active people with sciatica?
Beyond showing up for treatment appointments, you can manage and prevent sports-related sciatica by adding preventative measures to your training routines:
- Adding proper warm-ups and cool-downs can reduce your risk of injury
- Incorporating flexibility and core-strengthening exercises can also provide additional support for your spine and joints
Learn more about preventing sciatica pain.
Read 6 Tips to Help With Sciatica on our blog.
Are you experiencing sciatica?
If you're experiencing symptoms of sciatica, we can help. Don't let pain keep you from getting out there and staying active.
Our chiropractors in Aptos are here to help you overcome sciatica's pain-in-the-you-know-what.
Schedule your online appointment, and we'll create a treatment plan that gets you back to enjoying life to the fullest.