Sciatica is characterized by a sharp pain that often originates in the lower back and radiates throughout the buttock and into the lower leg. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back to the foot on each side.
Sciatica results from pressure being placed on the sciatic nerve. Three main components can compress the sciatic nerve: a vertebra, a spinal disc or an inflamed piriformis muscle. Vertebrae can move out of alignment or disc weakness or bulging can change their alignment. The piriformis muscle sits in the pelvis near the sciatic nerve.
Those who have felt the sharp pain of sciatica know the desire for a solution. One forum contributor at HealthBoards.com writes:
Fortunately, there are ways to relieve pressure off the sciatic nerve and eliminate the pain of sciatica. The exact method depends on what is causing impingement of the nerve.
Your doctor will likely take an X-ray of your back to determine if a vertebra has slipped or a disc is damaged. If a disc is causing the problem, it is possible that exercise therapy and time will be enough to help. Strengthening the muscles of the back, pelvis and abdomen can provide support to the spine that the disc no longer does. Stretches can help to decompress vertebrae and relieve pressure from the area.
A misaligned vertebra often merits a referral to a chiropractor. Some are suspicious of this form of treatment, since adjusting the spine with hands-on manipulation and mobilization has only fairly recently been accepted by the medical community as a credible practice. Some fear that a chiropractor will worsen their pain by damaging the nerve even further.
Chiropractors spend many years in medical school specializing in the study of the spine and the nerves around it. They actually put in more coursework time than medical doctors. As with all professions, there are good and bad practitioners, but chiropractors understand the vital connection between vertebrae and nerves.
Piriformis syndrome is generally diagnosed by the process of elimination. A physical therapist can prescribe a stretching and exercise routine to heal the muscle and end its impingement of the sciatic nerve.
Today’s workforce is subject to a different kind of strain than any other workforce in history. The office worker sits for many hours a day, often with poor posture, applying great pressure on the buttocks and distorting the spine’s alignment. Muscles are strained and nerves are often effected. Much of the back pain people experience today is the result of behaviors; lack of exercise, poor posture and static position all contribute to problems like sciatica. Seeking corrective measures early will protect you against further pain and nerve damage.