Sciatica – the very name sounds menacing and intimidating. And for anyone who has had sciatica at one point in their lives, they will confirm that statement to be true. Could you imagine if your neighbor had a Pitbull named, Sciatica? I sure wouldn’t try to pet it.
Because Sciatica is a very broad description to describe what could be one of several different conditions that all present similarly, this blog post will be a six part series covering each possible cause of sciatica along with symptoms, diagnosis and treatment-specific strategy for the matched cause. So what am I saying? I’m telling you that there can be several causes of sciatica which makes diagnosis all the more difficult and why anyone and everyone should be leery of any product (I’m looking at YOU inversion tables) that promises relief for such a broad diagnosis. Furthermore, I would also be skeptical of any healthcare practitioner who claims he or she can “cure sciatica” with their one proven technique. The operative word here is “one.” There is not one way to cure sciatica because there is not one cause. OK, there is my soapbox, now let’s move on.
Before we delve into the specifics of sciatica, let us first define this condition so we are all on the same page. The definition quoted below is taken right off Wikipedia, under the search term, sciatica.
“Sciatica is a medical condition characterized by pain going down the leg from the lower back. This pain may go down the back, outside, or front of the leg. Typically, symptoms are only on one side of the body. Certain causes, however, may result in pain on both sides. Lower back pain is sometimes but not always present. Weakness or numbness may occur in various parts of the affected leg and foot.”
So there is our working definition of what sciatica is. Now, let me quickly tell you what sciatica, for the intent and purpose of this blog series, is not. If you have pain radiating from your back down your leg but it does NOT go below your knee, we are not calling it sciatica, we are calling it low back pain. Furthermore, if it so happens that you have low back pain that does radiate down one leg but not below the knee and your pain began less than 16 days ago (give or take a few), you would GREATLY benefit from a spinal manipulation. If you want to read the research backing this up, check out this link.
OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to business – what causes sciatica pain? As mentioned above, there are several reasons that might lead to pain radiating down your leg or legs, namely: a herniated or bulged disk, central canal or foramenal stenosis (don’t worry I will explain what this all means later, I promise), neural tension or adverse neural dynamics, piriformis syndrome and the great pretender a trigger point in the Gluteus Minimis muscle.
As you can see, sciatica is complicated. But the good news is that once you have a firm understanding of what is causing your pain, the treatment becomes much easier.
In the coming weeks, I will write a separate blog post for each cause listed above, its diagnosis and treatment strategy. If you have any questions about what you read or your condition specifically, please do not hesitate to call me at 479-268-6040.