Sciatica Care and Correction: A Dana Point, CA Chiropractor’s Perspective
Sciatica is pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back into the buttocks, hip, and thigh, all the way down to the feet. Sciatica is very common, with over 3 million cases per year in the US, and an estimated 40% of the population will have sciatica at some point in their life.
The sciatic nerve is the body’s longest and thickest nerve (almost finger-width). It comprises five nerve roots: two from the lower back region called the lumbar spine, and three from the final section of the spine called the sacrum. The five nerve roots come together to form a right and left sciatic nerve that run down to your feet.
Sciatica is commonly caused when one or more of the bones of the lower back or pelvis move out of their normal alignment and apply pressure upon the sciatic nerve as it exits the spine. This abnormal shift in the spinal bones causing dysfunction in the nervous system is called a subluxation.
Sciatica is simply referred pain running down the sciatic nerve. It typically affects only one side of the body but can sometimes affect both. It is felt in any part of the nerve, from the lower back to the buttocks, hip, thigh, or into the feet.
Common Causes of Sciatica
A subluxation occurs in the spine when the bones, called vertebrae, move out of their normal alignment and cause undue pressure and dysfunction of the nerve system. When the nervous system cannot function normally, this can cause many different types of health problems. When the subluxations affect the sciatic nerve, this may cause sciatica. Chiropractors are experts in locating and correcting subluxations. Doctors of Chiropractic are the only type of doctors that specialize in the detection and correction of subluxations. Subluxations can result from traumas (as old as 40 years ago), stress, repetitive motion, bad posture, or toxins.
The Piriformis muscle runs from your pelvis to your hip and lays directly over the sciatic nerve. If the piriformis muscle goes into spasm, it can place undue pressure upon the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica. The doctors at PCH Chiropractic are experts in caring for patients with piriformis issues.
The lower back and pelvis joints require movement and motion to be healthy. Lack of motion or long-term poor biomechanics can cause them to degenerate and become arthritic. The discs can begin to shrink, and then new abnormal bone can grow, called lipping and spurring. The bone spurs can irritate the spinal nerves and surrounding tissues, causing inflammation and affecting the sciatic nerve. In this case, standing or walking can often aggravate the symptoms; rest, sitting down, laying down, or sitting can alleviate them.
Arthritis is often found in conjunction with degenerative disc disease. This degeneration can also begin to close off the openings, called foramen, that the nerves pass through when exiting the spine and cause sciatica.
Sciatica is common in pregnancy, but increased weight is not the main reason pregnant women get sciatica. A better explanation is that certain pregnancy hormones cause a loosening of their ligaments. Ligaments hold the vertebrae together, protect the discs and keep the spine stable. Loosened ligaments can cause the spine to become unstable and might cause subluxations, which lead to dysfunction of the associated nerves and the development of sciatica. The baby’s weight and position can also add pressure to muscles and nerves.
A herniated or bulging disc places pressure on the sciatic nerve. This is the most common cause of sciatica. About 1% to 5% of all people in the U.S. will have a slipped disc at one point in their lives. Discs are the cushioning pads between each vertebra of the spine. Pressure from vertebrae can cause the gel-like center of a disc to bulge (herniate) through a weakness in its outer wall. When a disc herniates in the lower back, it can affect the sciatic nerve.
Degenerative Disc Disease
If stress and misalignments are present in your spine for a long time, this can lead to degenerative disc disease, where the discs between each vertebra will degenerate and become thinner. When that happens, the foramen, the opening by which the nerves exit the spinal cord, will get smaller. This puts undue pressure on the nervous system and causes inflammation in the body.
Obesity, smoking, and work that is hard on the spine can contribute to degenerative disc disease.
Correcting the misalignments – subluxations – in the spine can stop the degeneration from progressing further and decrease inflammation.
How We Care for People with Sciatica
Note: We do not accept all patients that present to us. We only accept patients that we can help both effectively and safely. Cases not fitting those parameters are referred when necessary.
Detailed History and Examination
Before coming in, we will send you a patient application to fill out, so we can learn more about you and hear about the history of your condition. Once you come in, we will go in detail through this history and listen to any additional information you can share with us regarding your overall health. We are good listeners at PCH Chiropractic.
We will then perform chiropractic, functional, orthopedic, and neurological tests to properly diagnose your condition and see how we can help you. We will be looking for the root cause of your problem.
Low Radiation Digital X-Ray Evaluation
PCH Chiropractic has its own in-house low-radiation digital X-ray suite. This enables us to perform imaging on-site and get the results sometimes in minutes. Our assessment is comprehensive. During the examination, we will assess your posture, spinal alignment, range of motion, and other findings to determine if X-rays are warranted. We only take the X-rays that are necessary to evaluate your condition properly. We will assess both your coronal alignment (looking at you from the front) and your sagittal spinal curves (looking at you from the side).
An altered lumbar (low back) can create inflammation and therefore put a lot of stress on the sciatic nerve. This may result in pain and other seemingly unrelated symptoms: constipation, reproductive organ malfunctions, bladder issues, ED, and other issues affecting the lower organs of the abdomen.
By looking at a patient’s X-rays, we will also be able to tell you about degeneration in your spine, bones, and disc and your full healing potential. To see is to know, and to not know is to guess, and we don’t guess with a patient’s health. When X-rays are warranted, we take them safely and effectively with our up-to-date X-ray equipment.
We will then analyze all the results from the tests and the health history information you provided to find the root cause of your condition. That way, we can help you find the best care plan to heal your body and not just treat the symptoms. We will disclose all results and findings with you before active care begins and thoroughly answer any of your questions.
Specific Chiropractic Care
Once we have analyzed the X-rays and test results, we can find the best adjustment for you and your specific condition. Millions of patients are adjusted every day with amazing safety and effectiveness.
As chiropractors, we are trained to detect and correct the misalignments in your spine. Those misalignments are called subluxations. Subluxations interfere with the body’s ability to heal itself. Correcting them as soon as possible is essential to prevent degeneration and weakening in other areas of the spine that may be fed by the nerves coming out of the spine.
The adjustments will help restore movement in the lumbar (low back) spine and decrease the stress on the nervous system that leads to inflammation in the body associated with sciatica. This will help with better function and communication between the brain and the organs or tissues linked to the nerves coming out of the lumbar spine.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Once we begin your personalized care plan, we will show you the exercises specific to your posture. In many cases, postural changes contribute to our patient’s sciatic pain. By doing a digital posture analysis, we can determine exactly what muscles should be rehabbed to create the new optimal posture.
You will be given an exercise program to do both in the office for your visit and exercises to perform at home. We can also advise you on work ergonomics and sleeping positions that help reinforce the new posture and avoid aggravating the problem.
Lumbar Spinal Decompression and Traction
One of the reasons for sciatica can be a bulging or protruded disc. It is crucial to address this problem as soon as possible as they can cause loss of motor and sensory functions not only in the areas fed by the sciatic nerve but also in the organs of the lower abdomen. Early intervention is essential so those issues don’t become permanent.
We have specialized equipment that allows us to do lumbar spinal decompression when needed. This will relieve the pressure on the inflamed disc, interfering with your spinal cord and sciatic nerve, thus causing your symptoms. However, you want to ensure that you are doing the right kind of movement and distraction; this is where our expertise can help you. The right kind of movement can help you; the wrong kind can be “wrong” for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I see a doctor or a chiropractor about sciatica?
Over the past 39 years of practice, many patients have responded exceptionally well to chiropractic care when suffering from sciatica. Rather than treat a patient with drugs that can have serious side effects or a dangerous surgery, chiropractic is both natural and safe. After we complete the detailed evaluation described above, we will let you know if chiropractic care can help you. If not, we will help you with any necessary referral.
What can I do to relieve my sciatica pain?
Contact PCH Chiropractic to schedule an appointment for a detailed evaluation and examination to determine the underlying cause of your complaints.
How should I lay with Sciatica?
The best way to lay is the way you are most comfortable. “Listen to your body” applies in this case. That being said, most times, patients suffering from sciatica are the most comfortable laying on their backs (face up) with a small pillow under the neck and two to three large pillows under the knees. This causes both the knees and hips to be bent, thereby taking tension off the strained sciatic nerve.
How long does sciatica last?
Anyone that’s suffered from sciatica will tell you no matter how long they had it, their sciatica lasted too long. Sciatica is a type of nerve pain, and nerve pain is one of the most severe types of pain one can experience. That’s why it’s important to consult with our expert doctors, who can care for your sciatica as soon as possible. By getting to the root cause of your problem, you can shorten the period you suffer and reduce the chance that things get worse.
Can stretching make sciatica worse?
Because sciatica involves pressure upon the sciatic nerve that runs down the length of the leg, any stretching of the leg can literally stretch the already inflamed sciatic nerve. Consult with the doctors at PCH Chiropractic in Dana Point, CA, to determine what stretches may be safe for you to do while recovering from sciatica.
How do I get my sciatic nerve to stop hurting?
First and foremost, you should find out what is causing your sciatica. Then you can take the necessary steps to correct the root cause. Please see above to review common causes of sciatica.
What exercises help with sciatica?
Before one performs any exercises when suffering from sciatica, it’s crucial to fully understand what is causing it. Some conditions, as listed above, may become worse when exercising. Consulting with an expert in sciatica, like the doctors at PCH Chiropractic, before beginning any exercise may save you from worsening your condition. Once you have been properly evaluated, a safe exercise routine can be established for you.
Schedule an Appointment
Ready to discover the benefits of chiropractic care? At PCH Chiropractic, Drs. Palmer and Catherine Peet are here to help you get the most out of your life and obtain the highest standard of health and wellness. Book your appointment today.