Sciatica ( leg pain ) occurs so frequently that often times it is considered as routine as the common cold.
And very unfortunately, for most people it is not.
Sciatica should be attended to as early as possible, the diagnosis should be accurate and the treatment appropriate.
Sciatica is a condition characterized by severe pain in the leg. This can happen in one or for some hapless sufferers, both legs. It can alternate between the right and the left leg. Occasionally the pain is felt in the front or side of the legs, in the hips, the lower leg just below the knee, or in the foot; one or both. It can affect young & old alike. In children leg pain is often dismissed as growing pains.
The first thing you should learn right here & right now is that it does not hurt to grow. Growing pains are nothing more than sciatica pains in children which means there is a problem with their spine as well.
Apart from pain, paresthesia or pins-and –needles, burning ,tingling, prickling,crawling sensations or general tenderness may be felt. Ironically, the affected painful leg may feel numb as well. The quality of the pain is likely to vary in most patients. There may be a constant throbbing but then it may let up for hours, days weeks or even months.
This is when many patients make the huge mistake of thinking the problem is gone just because the symptoms have dissipated. With others however, the pain can be like a tooth-ache or be knife-like. In severe cases sciatica can cause a loss of reflexes or even a wasting of the calf muscles.
Sciatica can be hell to its sufferers. Sleeping, sitting, walking, turning, bending or standing up may be difficult or impossible. A good nights sleep may be a thing of the past for some sufferers. And forget about doing any physical exercise or inside or outside chores. These are most likely impossible & if one even tries, further serious damage is sure to result.
Clinical Comment: a teenage boy who played junior level hockey sought my help for sciatic leg pain at the age of 17. He could remember having leg pains as early as 6 yrs old & this was confirmed by his mother. He suffered with this in his right leg for over 10 yrs.
He had tried physiotherapy which provided no relief. Massage therapy provided some temporary relief. And of course his family doctor had him on a heavy course of pain-killers, muscle- relaxers & anti-inflammatory drugs. His mother was very reluctant to have him continue with the drugs as they were affecting his appetite, mood & energy level ( sluggish ) which in turn affected his ability to play hockey. As he was trying to position himself for a scholarship, they investigated chiropractic care as a possible solution to his problem.
After 6 chiropractic treatments, his leg pain had all but disappeared & he proceeded to pursue his scholarship untethered. He and his parents were extremely disappointed however that their family doctor never once recommended chiropractic care to them over the whole 10 year period he suffered with the leg pain. Especially after they learned of the potential very serious side-effects of the drugs he was prescribed.[end Clinical Comment – individual results will vary.]
So what is it that causes sciatica or leg pain?
First it is important to understand what the sciatic nerve is but let’s back it up even further.
Everyone knows that inside your skull is your brain. The brain then tapers down into a cord called the spinal cord that travels all the way down the inside of your spine and is secured at the very tip of your tailbone – this is called the coccyx. Large thick bundles of nerves branch off the spinal cord and these are called nerve roots.The individual nerve roots branch off the spinal cord & exit between each pair of the 24 vertebrae that make up your spine.
Nerve roots then separate into thousands of tiny,individual nerves that travel everywhere throughout your body to supply it with the power to function. So the reality is this – there is no separation between the brain, spinal cord & the nerve roots. They are all connected & the individual nerves are just tiny extensions of your brain that supply every organ, tissue & cell of your body. Now, the sciatic nerve is the longest & largest nerve in your body.
It is made up of the 5 nerve roots that leave your lower back ( the area just above your waist ), join together in your pelvis and then travels down to every muscle & joint in your legs. It is also the bodies biggest nerve reaching about the size of your thumb in diameter and the pain it causes is so intense that no analgesic can completely relieve it. This is a very important concept for you to grasp right here & right now. Sciatic leg pain is ALWAYS due to a lower back problem whether you suffer from lower back pain or not.
It can result from some of the lower back vertebrae being out of alignment irritating ( pinching ) the nerve roots, & a bulging, protruding or ruptured disc can also irritate the sciatic nerve causing sciatic nerve pain. Sciatica has been reported following accidents, injuries ( work, sports ), childbirth & most usually due to spinal misalignments. Spinal misalignments happen when one does not practice good spinal hygiene habits on a regular basis.
As previously mentioned, the medical approach to sciatic pain relief is drugs, orthopaedic devices such as traction and different forms of physical therapy. None of these however will correct a misaligned spine to relieve irritated nerve roots, inflamed spinal joints or help heal bulging spinal discs.
Research shows that the relationship between chiropractic spinal adjustments & sciatic leg pain is a close one.
One study of 60 patients showed that spinal care should be the care of choice for sciatica sufferers. And other studies have praised chiropractic spinal adjustments for sufferers of sciatica and leg pain. And after 25 years of private practice dealing with hundreds of sciatica cases, it is quite evident that patients who get to the chiropractor right away as soon as their sciatic nerve starts to bother them, get by far the best results from their chiropractic treatments. All without the potentially dangerous side-effects of the drugs or medications that are all too frequently prescribed for such conditions.
Even if the patient has had sciatica for several years & has even had unsuccessful spinal surgery, chiropractic treatments have always provided some degree of relief. Individual results will always vary depending upon the patients pre-existing level of spinal & overall general health.
It would be wise for those suffering from sciatica & leg pain to visit a doctor of chiropractic. To millions of sciatica sufferers, chiropractic’s unique approach to wellness has been a blessing. If the spine is or becomes misaligned or distorted, it could damage ( irritate, pinch ) the delicate spinal nerves it was designed to protect. The impinged nerves can then upset the vital workings of the nerve system, weaken the body & set the stage for dis-ease, pain & body malfunction.