It can be frightening to wake up with pain radiating down your legs. You lie in bed and wait for it to go away, thinking it’s all due to the slightly awkward position you slept in. Yet the pain doesn’t fade, and as you try to get up, you feel your knees giving out as if you’d spent the whole day before running a marathon. Sounds familiar? If you’re experiencing this, it’s highly likely that you are suffering from a case of sciatica. The term ‘sciatica’ describes pain resulting from the irritation or compression of sciatic nerve, which originates in the lower back, extends through the buttocks and branches out to travel down the back of each leg. Common symptoms include sharp pain in the buttocks or the legs that is usually accompanied by numbness, tingling and weakness. The pain is often described to be radiating down the legs, which makes standing and walking difficult.
The causes of sciatica vary, as there are a plethora of conditions that can result in the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. One of the most common causes, however, is vertebral subluxation – a condition in which our vertebrae (the series of smaller bones joining up to form the spinal column) shift out of their original positions due to repetitive stress or trauma. When this happens in the lower back region, it often leads to a number of complications.The uneven pressure that the abnormal vertebrae are exerting on the intervertebral discs – gel-like cushions between each vertebrae that act as shock absorbers – can cause the discs to swell. Over time, a disc might degenerate to the point where its outer rings ruptures, causing the inner portion to bulge outward and press on the sciatic nerve. This is called a herniated disc.
In any case, the irritation and compression of sciatic nerve will result in pain that radiates along said nerve, from the lower back all the way down to the feet. A skilled chiropractor would treat this by relieving the pressure on the nerve using spinal adjustment. This treatment method involves applying a gentle yet precise force to the malpositioned vertebra to shift it back into place. With pressure taken off the discs and the nerve, the swelling and inflammation will disappear, and in time, so will the pain. Chiropractors may also incorporate nutritional recommendations or rehabilitative exercises into their treatment program, depending on the patient’s needs. It should be noted that while subluxation is a common cause of sciatica, it is not the only one. In cases where subluxation isn’t the main cause of pain, patients will be referred to specialists who can adequately address the problems underlying their condition.