Google diagnoses everyone who has pain going down their leg(s) with sciatica, but is that diagnosis correct. In almost every single instance it is incorrect. True sciatica, or sciatic neuritis, is defined as inflammation of the sciatic nerve. If you have sciatic neuritis there would be a constant feeling of burning, lightning bolts, numbness, tingling down your leg 24/7. There would be no positions, postures, or movements that would make the pain increase or decrease. With true sciatic neuritis the only successful treatment used is medication. So if it’s not true sciatica, what’s causing my problems? There are 4 main sources of pain that cause “sciatica” that we can fix in a chiropractic office.
The First and most likely cause is a Disc Herniation/Disc Bulge in the low back. Sedentary jobs or work requiring a significant amount of bending, lifting and twisting can leave someone susceptible to a disc herniation. An intervertebral disc is the squishy jelly donut that separates your vertebrae(back bones). When we repeatedly bend forward and put stress on these discs it causes some of the ‘jelly’ to shoot backwards and hit our nerves. Typically the more bending we do the more irritated our nerves get and the pain shoots farther down the leg(s). The best way to reduce this is through bending your back backwards and strengthening your glutes and low back. Bending backwards takes pressure off of the disc which then takes pressure off of the irritated nerve.
The Second most commonly seen cause of ‘sciatica’ is Bone Spurs of the low back. Bone spurs are typically seen in people over 50 who have wear and tear on their body. Bone spurring is a part of osteoarthritis. Arthritis is a process that occurs over time and is seen in every human being. The two main causes of worsening arthritis are lack of mobility and lack of strength. The less we move our bodies, the more stiff they get. The less we strengthen our muscles, the more force our bones and joints absorb. To combat arthritis move and strengthen your low back every single day!
The Third most common cause of ‘sciatica’ is a Muscle Trigger Point. When muscles get tight they can refer pain to different areas of the body. The gluteus minimus and gluteus medius are two muscles that can cause pain shooting down the leg which mimics sciatica. If these muscles are always tight and tender they can be causing your pain.
The Fourth cause which is also quite rare is Piriformis Syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is typically only seen in skinnier female runners. Piriformis syndrome is quite simple to diagnose as well. If you put pressure on the piriformis muscle ( in the middle of your glut) and it causes pain to shoot down the leg, you most likely have piriformis syndrome. The best way to combat piriformis syndrome is by strengthening your hips internal rotation. The piriformis muscle gets very tight with external rotation of the hip, so we must move it the opposite direction.
If one or more of these sounds familiar to you, give us a call and we will fix you up and educate you on how to prevent this from ever happening again!