Sciatica is not only a huge cause of discomfort, but also worry for a lot of people.
When pain is travelling down a limb, that’s usually not a good sign.
In this article you’ll learn about some of the major causes of sciatica and what you can do about them.
Sciatica – what is it?
Sciatica is a type of leg pain that follows the path of a sciatic nerve. It originates from the lower lumber and sacrum region.
The pain area spreads from the lower back down to the buttock region as well as legs and feet.
Other associated symptoms include numbness, pins and needles, burning sensation, and dull ache in legs and feet.
The most common causes of sciatica are lumbar herniated disc, spinal degeneration, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis.
The four main causes
#1 Lumbar herniated disc
Herniated lumbar disc accounts for up to 90% of sciatica cases in Australia.
When discs bulge or the material inside bulges through the outer layer, it can compress or irritate one or more of sciatic nerve roots. A lumbar herniated disc can cause sciatica in two ways.
The disc material directly presses on the nerve due to disc bulges or leakage of material from inside the disc.
The leakage of disc material causes a chemical irritation of the surrounding tissues including the sciatic nerve.
In most cases, a herniated disc usually compresses only one side of the sciatic nerve, creating a pain pattern on one side of the leg.
Bilateral sciatica is where the disc herniates to both sides and is rare, and more serious.
#2 Spinal Degeneration
Degeneration can affect the spinal facet joints or the vertebral bodies in the same way.
Uneven movement over long periods of time can create damage in the form of bone spurs or osteophytes which can create inflammation and swelling of the joint capsule.
As with herniated lumbar discs, spinal degeneration and the spurs and inflammation that go with it can lead to chemical irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
#3 Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is more common among people over 60 years of age.
Degenerative changes in the spinal bones can change the shape of the spinal canal where the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves pass through.
In severe cases, spinal stenosis can greatly restrict or press upon theses nerves. Misalignment of the spinal bones can add to the irritation caused by spinal stenosis.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition where there is a defect or fracture of part of the vertebra. This can cause the vertebra to slip forward on the one below it.
It commonly occurs in the L4 and L5 vertebrae. In some instances, it may cause bilateral sciatica and is more common in younger adults.
Spondylolisthesis may develop slowly over time due to degeneration, or more quickly due to trauma such as motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, or falls.
Chiropractors are spine care experts
Chiropractors are experts in the diagnosis and management of spine-related disorders. When you have sciatica, a chiropractor will be able to quickly establish what is going on and what type of care you need.
Can I be helped?
Some types of sciatica can be helped with chiropractic care (usually combined with posture and exercise advice).
Where spinal misalignment is part of the cause or contributing to the problem, chiropractic care can be very helpful.
Restoring proper spinal motion in addition to re-training the supportive muscles is often enough to reduce nerve irritation to make a difference.
Sciatica can improve considerably if treated early but may become chronic or more severe if left untreated for a long period of time.
As chiropractors at Canberra Spine Centre, we help people every day to achieve a better spinal health.
In other cases, chiropractic care may not be helpful, in which case your chiropractor will refer appropriately.
If you’re concerned about your sciatica and are not sure what to do about it, please call us on (02) 6257 9400.
If you would like some more information about the spine and nervous system and how it relates to your health, please check out the other articles on our Facebook page or go to our website: www.spinecentre.com.au
Call (02) 6257 9400 or visit us at 7 Macpherson St in O’Connor.