But our Las Vegas chiropractors point out that this view can be misguided. The discomfort that we experience in the legs, or in the feet and toes, can signify something more than just tiredness brought on by being on our feet all day. It can signal more serious problems emanating from the spinal column. It can indicate sciatica.
When you hear the word “sciatica”, particularly if you have never been subjected to the condition personally, your first thought is most likely to be of strong leg pain. But, as is often the case with health conditions, there are many other possible symptoms, and more than one possible cause of sciatica. Symptoms may range from localized pain in the buttocks to agonizing pain all the way down the back of the leg possibly including the foot.
What Is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is one of the longest and largest nerves in the body. Starting with five roots beginning in the low back it travels via the pelvis to the joints and muscles at various points in the legs, the feet and the toes.
While the sciatic nerve remains healthy, the lower body and legs may function normally and stay pain-free. The problems start when the sciatic nerve gets inflamed. This is the condition known as sciatica.
The pain can sometimes be experienced as a simple ache, while at other times it is described by the sufferer as a “pins-and-needles” sensation, as stabbing spasms or as total numbness. If not treated, the pain will become progressively worse to the point where the simplest actions like bending, walking, sitting down, or standing up again can be extremely painful.
So What Are The Symptoms?
What symptoms should alert you to sciatica? Any inflammation of the sciatic nerve can lead to any one of a wide range of symptoms. Naturally those symptoms include pain, but also a general weakness, burning, or numbness.
Whatever symptoms you do experience there may still be lots of variations. The sensation may be felt only in the buttocks or along the whole of the leg as far as, and maybe including the foot. The sensation may appear on one side of the body or on both sides, the level of intensity may vary from one area to another, appearing weaker on one side as opposed to the other. Finally the symptoms may appear in isolated parts of the body only – such as the foot – rather than as a complete stream down the length of one or both legs.
What Causes Sciatica?
There seem to be three principal factors that bring on sciatica:
- One prime cause of sciatica is a pressure on any one of the five nerves in the lower back that come together to form the sciatic nerve. Such nerve pressure can be caused by a bone in your lower back being out of alignment or by a herniated disc.
- Another location at which the sciatic nerve can be inflamed is at the sacroiliac joint in the pelvis. Anyone who has fallen heavily onto their hip or pelvis; anyone who has had surgery on their hip, leg, foot or ankle, or anyone with a muscle imbalance from a sport or other activity – any of these could have a rotated pelvis applying pressure to a sacroiliac joint, and as a consequence the sciatic nerve running directly in front of it.
- Finally, the third location where pressure might also be applied to the sciatic nerve is in the buttocks. There are several muscles located there and the sciatic nerve usually passes underneath them. However, in a very few unfortunate cases a further complication can arise when the sciatic nerve passes directly through one of the muscles – the piriformis muscle. What this means is that when the muscle contracts, it has the effect of pinching the sciatic nerve.
How Can I Avoid Sciatica?
Given the extreme discomfort that accompanies sciatica, it is worthwhile taking some steps to avoid it in the first place. The best way to start is by
- keeping a good posture when sitting and standing,
- taking care to sleep on your back, not your front,
- preferably sleeping on a firm mattress, and
- ensuring that you always wear well-fitting shoes.
- following a healthy eating program (remember that calcium strengthens bones and nerves, and cutting down on fat keeps your weight down)
- exercising regularly, and aim particularly to strengthen the abdomen and the back,
How Do I Get the Best Treatment?
Whenever you experience sciatica, the only thing on your mind is for the pain to end. At those times it is very difficult to avoid simply turning to pain-killing drugs. But although pain meds or anti-inflammatory prescriptions can certainly give you some immediate relief, you are far better advised to search for a treatment that deals not just with the immediate symptoms, but sorts out the root of the problem: and chiropractic gives you precisely that.
The immediate aims of your chiropractic treatment will be to reduce the inflammation of the sciatic nerve and to bolster the circulation to both the groups of muscles and soft tissue that are supporting and surrounding the nerve. Initially it may be necessary to use ice, ultrasound, or certain other techniques to bring down the swelling and remove the waste products that build-up after tissue injury. As the inflammation is brought under control, more treatment is usually started to exercise the muscles alongside the pathway of the nerve. A number of exercises and therapeutic massage may also be applied as an aid to improve circulation. During this period use may also be made of either moist heat or moist heat together with ice.
Most often, the first sign of improvement with sciatica is when the patient begins to notice that the unpleasant sensations no longer reach quite so far down the leg as before. The process of healing can be continued and supported by focused exercise, healthy nutrition, and further chiropractic care if that is required.
If you would like to consult a Las Vegas chiropractor and discover more about how chiropractic can deal with leg pain and sciatica we would be glad to help. Just call Complete Injury Management at (702) 227- 4879.