Do you ever experience a nagging irritation in your lower back or hips? Have you ever had to take off of work or stop what you were doing to deal with this discomfort? If so, you could be dealing with sciatica. Sciatic nerve pain often creates an intolerable tingling, numbness, or weakness that originates in a network of nerves in your lower back and travels down the leg towards the back of your thigh. It is likely that you have either personally experienced this pain or know someone who has, considering that chronic lower back pain is the second leading cause of disability in the United States.
While the number of people who continually have to deal with this pain is high, few understand what is actually causing it.
The severity and length of sciatic pain varies in each individual person because it is not always caused by the same factors. Some of the symptoms of sciatica include: (1)
The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body, so it makes sense that it is so commonplace for people to experience sciatic nerve pain. Many spinal conditions can put pressure on the sciatic nerve or one of the nerves connected to it, which can affect a few of the many important functions that are carried out by the lower back and hips. For example, the piriformis muscle is involved in nearly every function of the hips, which are integral when it comes to balance, joint stabilization and movement of the lower body.(2) (3)
While pressure on the lower back and inflammation in the sciatic nerve are often symptoms that become more prevalent with increasing age, sciatic nerve pain can be caused and worsened by many other factors. Some of the causes of sciatica include: (4)
- Bulging or Herniated Disc
- The sciatic nerve can become pinched when it is directly compressed between ligaments, tendons, and bones
- Pregnancy - Sometimes the position of the fetus or the shape of your uterus can press on the sciatic nerve and cause pain
- Repetitive Motion - Activities like cycling, running, and weight lifting can irritate the muscles and cause inflammation
- Positioning - Holding an area of the body in a particular position for a long period of time can cause irritation
- Weight - Being overweight or obese can put additional stress on muscles and cause inflammation
Because sciatica has a number of different causes, a treatment that may be appropriate for one person may not be as effective for the next. Many people assume that they can self-treat sciatica, but without a proper diagnosis from a health professional, they will most likely do more harm than they will good. Because the sciatic nerve is deep, the inflammation is typically also deep rather than a surface-level part of the anatomy. While many people turn to the use of pain-killing medication, epidural steroid injections, or even surgery to alleviate their pain, studies show that non-surgical and natural alternatives are just as effective. Some holistic and natural treatments for sciatica include: (5)
- Stretching exercises - Certain stretches can return a patient’s range of motion and decrease painful symptoms along the sciatic nerve. Stretches including the reclining pigeon pose or the sitting spinal stretch help to externally rotate the hip to provide some relief. These targeted lower back exercises can not only reduce pain, but improve posture, spinal ability and balance as well.
- Alternating hot + cold compresses - Using heat to relax tense muscles that may be compressing the sciatic nerve and ice to act as a natural anti-inflammatory and to numb the area of soreness are effective and inexpensive ways to alleviate sciatic pain
- Deep tissue massage therapy applies slow, firm pressure to the affected area, which allows for the manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body
- Chiropractic care - Seeking out a chiropractic health professional’s diagnosis for sciatic pain is an intelligent way to receive non-invasive and drug-free treatment (6)
For more information about Pragle Chiropractic And Massage Therapy, please visit www.praglechiro.com or call us.