Sciatica: What Is It Really?

It is not uncommon to hear people complain about back pain and sciatica. However, misdiagnosis is also common, which can pose a problem when seeking treatment. There are several reasons why back pain can radiate to other areas of the body. Receiving a proper diagnosis is important to ensuring that any target-based therapies, such as massage and physiotherapy will be effective in resolving the issue. Remember, the cause of your pain is not always in the same area as the pain itself.

To start, sciatica is a symptom; not a condition. It happens when other spinal conditions cause a “pinched nerve,” which in turn affects other areas of the spine that leads to pain radiating down into the legs. Pain can go down the front, back or side of the leg and can go as far down as the feet. Conditions that might cause sciatica include a subluxation, a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. Sciatica sends shooting pain down the legs and can range from mild to excruciating in terms of pain level. This nerve pain makes standing or sitting difficult and it can occur suddenly or build-up gradually over time. It is often accompanied by weakness in the leg as well as some numbness.

Often, patients are treated for the leg pain only, either through massage or physiotherapy or through pain management systems involving medication or surgical intervention. Remember that sciatica pain is originating from pressure on a nerve in the low back so the only way to fix that problem is to take pressure off that nerve.  Surgical intervention, in particular comes with a high degree of risk, making this a less than preferable option. Rather than learning to live with the pain people treat the symptoms with Advil or Tylenol, which comes with its own adverse side effects. There is another approach that has proven to be more successful in managing long-term sciatic pain and lower back issues by fixing the problem and in turn, getting rid of the symptoms, which is usually pain or leg weakness.

According to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the best treatment to address any underlying back condition causing sciatic nerve pain is chiropractic intervention. The study measured underlying causes of sciatica, the level of pain associated with sciatic pain as well as mobility, medication use and overall improvement. It found that those patients that utilized chiropractic intervention were most likely to not only manage their pain better in the future, but also they showed vast improvements in mobility and general well-being over the 12-week period of the study. Working with a chiropractor that understands sciatica and the causes of it can greatly improve patient outcomes and reduce pain at a far lesser degree of risk than medication or surgery.

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