What You Think You Know About Sciatica May Be All Wrong…

Written by: William Walsh, DC

When people hear the term “Sciatica”, most people think oh…“back and leg pain”.  Well, that’s what comes to mind to people who haven’t experienced it.  Unfortunately, sciatica is more than “just pain.” Sciatica limits simple things in life that we sometimes take for granted.  I have seen golfers who just can’t swing or walk the course, “car buffs” who can’t work on their pride and joy, grandparents who can’t play with their grandchildren, and people who were unable to work and lost their livelihood all due to sciatica.  When people can’t perform activities they love, emotions such as “pride, happiness, and joy” become replaced with “frustration, depression, and hopelessness”.

Man suffering for backache. Isolated on white

So, What Exactly is Sciatica? 

Sciatica is pain, due to the irritation of the sciatic nerve, that can be felt in the low back, buttock, lower extremities, and feet. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body.  It is formed by multiple spinal nerves from the lower back that come together and form one large (sciatic) nerve.  This nerve acts like a mega highway of information that extends from the lower spinal cord, down to the feet. However, due to its size, it can also become irritated more frequently than other nerves.  In order for a nerve to become irritated, pressure must be placed on the nerve that disrupts the messages coming to or going from the spinal cord. When these messages are not properly being sent, various sensations can be felt including numbness, tingling, burning, and/or pain. Although a nerve can be irritated in one area, it doesn’t necessarily mean symptoms will be felt at that location. If the irritation on the nerve occurs in the low back, it may be felt anywhere along the sciatic nerve distribution and result in leg or foot pain.  Pressure on the nerve can come from many different tissues in the body, including bulging discs, bone degeneration (spinal stenosis, bone spurs), muscular imbalances, and/or inflammation in the area of the nerve.

medical illustration of symptoms of the sciatica

What If the Pain Only Comes and Goes?

Sciatica can present as both sudden and insidious.  Sciatica that starts abruptly is usually due to a certain movements that your body is unable to handle.  Patients tend to remember the exact moment the pain began and the mechanism that caused it.  This type of sciatica is usually due to a tissue in the body that completely “fails” at one instant.   For example, we all know someone who was bending over to pick something up and suddenly experienced pain in their back that shoots down their legs.  If this happens to you, it is very important to be seen by a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Insidious sciatica is the form of sciatica that people commonly put off as “nothing serious”.  It can start off as just a little back or leg pain that comes and goes.  Over time, it becomes more frequent and more intense, but people become conditioned to the pain until it becomes unbearable.  This type comes from degeneration of tissues in the body.  Degeneration of tissue in the human body is caused by two factors, stress and time. This is common for people who do the same movements over and over for years, such as sitting at a desk for 7-8 hours a day with poor posture or a tradesman who uses his/her body doing labor for years.  If you have back pain that comes and goes, it is an indication that something is wrong and should be taken seriously to prevent further, and possibly irreversible, damage.

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all cure” for sciatica because each case is different.  I would love to give you a list of stretches that would make your sciatica vanish but it’s not that simple. There needs to be a comprehensive approach in determining if a patient truly has sciatica or if it’s a condition mimicking sciatica.

How Can Monmouth Pain Help?

The good news is that Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation helps patients with sciatica daily at our clinics. Our team consists of highly- skilled and experienced practitioners that work together to closely examine each individual case. Using cutting-edge technology and rehab practices our team creates an individualized program to decrease your symptoms. Even more important, we will also address the underlying cause and help prevent your sciatica from ever coming back.  If you would like to see if we are able to help with your sciatica please contact us at our Red Bank or Wall office today – 732.345.1377. We can help you get your life back!

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