Is Sciatica Causing Your Lower Back Pain?

If there is one thing that the vast majority of American adults have in common it’s back pain.  It affects 80 percent of us to some degree at some point in our lives and with numerous possible causes.  Being home to the spine, nerves, muscles, tendons and ligaments, there is no shortage of potential pain sources in the back.  Furthermore, it can be exceedingly difficult for patients to distinguish between a muscle strain and a herniated disc or other pain source.  So, how can you tell what’s really causing your pain?  Let’s begin with one common and often overlooked source of lower back pain: sciatica.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a condition which causes pain along the sciatic nerve, a particularly long nerve that runs from the lower back, down each buttocks and leg.  In most cases, it is some sort of impingement on this nerve that is causing pain.  A herniated disc or bone spur along the spine may be causing pressure, or a condition called spinal stenosis in which the spinal column narrows may be compressing part of the nerve.  Sciatica is also common during pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?

There are five nerve roots from the lower back that come together to form the large sciatic nerve.  Symptoms and their locations will depend on which of these nerve roots are impacted.  In many cases, sciatica will affect only one side of the body.  The pain will typically begin in the lower back and may extend down the buttock and into the thigh and calf.  In some cases, the foot may be involved as well, experiencing numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness.  The type of pain experienced may be described anywhere from a shooting pain to a burning sensation.

Is my Back Pain Sciatica or Something Else?

Unfortunately, there are other conditions such as piriformis syndrome which can mimic many of the symptoms of sciatica.  For patients, it can be difficult to tell the difference, and an attempt at self-diagnosis is ill-advised.  Instead, those who suspect sciatica should see a physician for a definitive diagnosis. 

If you are diagnosed with sciatica, consider chiropractic care for treatment.  By using a variety of methods such as adjustments, electrical nerve stimulation, and ultrasound, a chiropractor may be able to ease your symptoms without the need for more invasive procedures.  Furthermore, if your chiropractor determines that your condition needs additional intervention, he or she can help you find a physician with whom you are comfortable for referral.

In the Gastonia and Belmont, NC areas, SouthEast Chiropractic not only offers traditional chiropractic services, we also offer many complementary therapies such as massage, nutritional counseling, and exercise recommendations to help eliminate your painful symptoms.  Contact either of our offices to request a consultation.