The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in your body. It is composed of the individual nerve roots that branch off from the spinal cord in the lower back. These smaller nerve roots combine to form the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the buttock and down the back of each leg. Parts of the sciatic nerve then branch out in each leg to give feeling and function to the various parts of the leg. Your specific sciatica symptoms will vary based on where the nerve is pinched.
Possible causes of sciatica include:
- Disc herniation
- Piriformis syndrome
- Spinal disc degeneration
- Lumbar spinal canal stenosis (narrowing)
- Sitting on your wallet
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatic nerve pain is characterized by the following symptoms:
- A pain in one side of the lower back, buttock or leg. Sciatica very rarely will affect both sides.
- Sciatic pain is most often described as tingling or burning
- The pain is usually worse when sitting and might become extremely sharp when standing up or walking.
- The affected leg might feel numb or weak, causing difficulty moving the whole leg or sometimes just the foot or toes.
- Radiating pain that might start in the lower back and shoot all the way down the leg into the foot.
While sciatica might share one or more of those common symptoms, the severity and presentation can differ from person to person. A person’s symptoms might even vary from day to day. Sciatica can be an infrequent nuisance or it can be a constant, incapacitating pain.
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Tips for Natural Sciatica Relief
When an episode of sciatica strikes, there are natural options you can try if you are concerned about long-term medication use and potential side-effects:
- Try yoga or stretching. Yoga can help with your flexibility and can help to strengthen your back. Targeting the piriformis muscle can be of particular benefit for sciatica sufferers.
- Get up and get moving. Sitting for long periods of time can shorten muscles and ligaments and lead to overall stiffness and pain. Incorporating more movement into your day is beneficial for sciatica patients, and has other obvious health benefits as well.
- Reduce inflammation. Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting ample sleep, and quitting smoking are some of the best ways to reduce inflammation that might be contributing to sciatic nerve irritation.
The Root Cause of Sciatica May Not Be in the Lower Back
While this might seem unconventional to think about at first, it makes perfect sense that sciatic nerve irritation may not actually begin in the lower back. Your entire spinal column from top to bottom is connected by joints between each vertebra as well as soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) that run the length of your back. No different than links in a chain, when one link is weak or misaligned, it can affect how the rest of the chain functions. This concept holds true for the spine.
The area of your spine with the most motion is not your lower back, it’s your neck. More specifically, it’s at the uppermost vertebrae in your spine that holds the head up and is responsible for the majority of its movement. This bone is called the atlas, and because it is so free to move around it is also vulnerable to misaligning. An atlas misalignment can happen as a result of an injury (car accident, slip or fall, contact sports, etc.), or wear and tear over time. This sets off a domino effect of postural compensations. When the head is not carried in its normal position, the shoulders and hips are forced to compensate which can put unequal, abnormal pressure on one side of the back more so than the other. The ultimate result of this is that one leg may appear shorter than the other and you might start to bear your weight unequally from left to right. When you think about the spine in this light, it’s easy to see how one area might influence another.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Brings Lasting Sciatica Relief
When sciatica strikes, the natural reaction is to treat the lower back with either medications or various therapies. While this might be good for providing some temporary relief, it might not address the root cause of the issue. If your atlas is not positioned properly, it can be playing a role in how your lower back feels and functions. Over time, this can contribute to the onset of sciatica symptoms if left unaddressed.
By correcting the atlas, we are able to deal with where the problem may have actually started rather than chase around ever-changing symptoms. At Symmetry Health Chiropractic Center, we perform a thorough evaluation of each patient to identify if, indeed, an atlas misalignment is a contributing factor to your lower back and sciatica problems. If so, then it is necessary to correct the atlas in order to achieve lasting relief. Upper cervical chiropractic adjustments are unique in that they are very precise, extremely gentle, and tailored towards each individual’s needs. Once the atlas is repositioned normally, long-standing compensations are allowed to balance out and heal. When the head is returned to its neutral position over the spine, the shoulders and hips can come back into balance, relieving pressure from the middle and lower back. This can reduce or even completely remove the irritation from the affected sciatic nerve, and finally get rid of your stubborn sciatic nerve pain.
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