Sciatica is a very common condition that affects more than 3 million people in the US every year. It is classified by pain and discomfort radiating from the the hip or lower back and often accompanied by sporadic pain shooting down the leg. The range of irritation ranges from mild or constant discomfort to sudden debilitating pain. But what is sciatica, what causes it, and how can it be treated?
Sciatica itself is not a disease, therefore not the cause of the problem, it is simply a name used to describe the symptoms of pain and discomfort related to the sciatic nerve in the hip and lower back.
Common Causes of Sciatica
These are the common causes of sciatica. It is also possible sciatica is caused by a combination of several causes.
- Piriformis Syndrome is the spasming of the piriformis muscle, a muscle located in the hip right next to the sciatic nerve.
- Spinal Stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve irritating it.
- Herniated or Slipped Disc is when a small portion of the spinal disc bulges out of the spinal column which can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Spondylolisthesis is a slippage of one of the vertebra so that it is out of line causing a kink in the spine that can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Source: Cleveland Clinic: What Is Sciatica? .
Inflammation is the basis for most of these conditions. Inflammation of the piriformis muscle and nerves controlling the muscle can cause it to spasm uncontrollably. Inflammation of the tissue in the spinal canal can cause it to narrow. And inflammation of the spinal disc can cause it to bulge. The reasons for the inflammation may be different, but the final outcome is always the same: sciatic pain.
Alleviating and Treating Sciatica
In addition to any treatments you may try, be aware of your posture as that may be the number cause of sciatica. This means, having good posture while sitting, walking, or doing any activity.
- Sit with a slightly arched back and do not slouch.
- Distribute your weight between both your legs when standing or walking.
- Don’t lean on one leg for prolonged periods of time.
- Reduce activities and exercises that worsen your sciatica.
- Warm up and stretch before activity.
Source: Ask My Acupuncturist: Sciatica .
If the pain still persists try acupuncture or a chiropractic adjustment. Acupuncture is great at reducing pain and decreasing inflammation in soft tissue. By decreasing inflammation in the muscles and tissues surrounding the sciatic nerve, the nerve itself may not be as irritated and thus cause less pain and discomfort . If you feel your spine is truly out of alignment, enough that a vertebrae is out of position, consider getting a chiropractic adjustment to get your spine back into alignment.
Whatever causes your sciatica, however severe it may be, know that there are things you can do to treat it. You can do more than just take pain medication, stretch, or get surgery. Try these natural options first before doing anything else: improve your posture, get acupuncture, and adjust your spine.