If you have lower back or buttocks pain which runs into your thigh or past the knee to one leg and foot, a healthcare professional may diagnose your symptoms as sciatica. Sciatica is a medical term used to describe painful sensations caused by the compression or impingement of the sciatic nerve. This compression is normally caused by a disc herniation or a bone spur pressing on one of the nerves in the lower back.
Sensations, or unusual feelings, could include numbness, tingling, pins and needles, and sometimes pain referred to as electric-shock-like. Determined by the individual nerve that is affected, pain may radiate only into the buttocks or all the way down to the foot.
Sciatica pain generally radiates along the length of the sciatic nerve, the longest and largest nerve in the human body, usually from the lower back, down the buttocks, and into the thigh and leg as well as the foot. One hallmark of classic sciatica is when the painful symptoms are felt beneath the knee and sometimes down into the foot and great toe. Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the body, however, it may occasionally affect both sides of the body.
Radicular Pain or Radiculopathy
Radicular pain, or radiculopathy, are different terms used to describe similar symptoms. Your healthcare professional may commonly utilize these terms interchangeably while discussing your sciatica. Radiculopathy is pain and/or an adverse sensation that travels past the affected site, along the length of a nerve. When a spinal nerve root is compressed, pinched or injured, it may become inflamed. Common conditions which could cause this kind of problem are spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis or herniated discs.
What to Expect from a Sciatica Diagnosis
In order to determine the proper diagnosis of your sciatica symptoms, a healthcare professional may ask a series of questions, for instance:
- When did the pain begin?
- Where do you feel the pain?
- What activities worsen or reduce pain and symptoms?
- Does the pain go all the way down your leg or does it stop at the knee?
- Is there weakness or tingling in your thighs or feet?
- How severe is your pain, on a scale of 1 to 10? (10 being the worse pain possible)
The healthcare professional may conduct a straight-leg test to find out whether you've got irritation or inflammation on a nerve. In order to perform this evaluations, you lie on your back while the doctor lifts each leg. When lifting a leg causes, or generates sciatic-like pain and sensations, you might have a bulging or ruptured disc, best known as a disc herniation.
Furthermore, the healthcare professional may ask you to walk as you normally do, then on your heels and next on your toes. This enables the physician to confirm your balance and aspects of lower-body strength. Compression or impingement of the sciatic nerve may cause muscle fatigue in the foot that will be revealed by these tests and evaluations. During your examination, your healthcare professional will:
- Look at your position and range of movement
- Note any movement that causes pain
- Examine the curvature and alignment of your spine
- Feel for muscle strain
- Assess your sensation
- Test your reflexes and muscle strength
Your doctor may order a plain x-ray, CT scan or MRI to help see the source of your sciatica more clearly. The CT scan or MRI provides the doctor with several snapshots of your spine, and will help confirm a suspected diagnosis. The findings of an imaging test are compared to the information that the doctor gathers during the taking of your medical history, and physical and neurological examination outcomes. An accurate identification is one of the very first steps in determining the best treatment options.
If it's not Sciatica, What Else Could it Be?
Only a healthcare professional can tell for sure if your symptoms are sciatica or not. There are many complex structures in the spine which can result in similar kinds of pain. For instance, the joint between the pelvic and sacrum, or the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, which is the smallest portion of the spine, may lead to pain from the buttock in the case of injury or due to an aggravated condition. You may also feel sciatica-like pain and discomfort if you sprain a very low back facet joint, which are the connecting joints at the back region of the spine. A tear in a disk can lead to pain down to the leg. The hip joint can occasionally trigger pain at the thigh as well. It's essential to seek proper medical attention to assess the source of your symptoms.
Treatments for sciatica pain are diverse and there are lots of options to choose from. While sciatic nerve pain and radicular pain symptoms may resolve with the use of many traditional and alternative treatment options, severe cases may require surgery. Normally, some middle ground of these two extremes is the answer for curing sciatica.
Sciatica usually may be treated nonsurgically with short (24 to 48 hours) bed rest and pain relievers like aspirin or acetaminophen. In some cases, the physician may prescribe drugs and/or medications that relieves nerve pain, such as gabapentin. Oral steroids are another commonly used treatment to calm pain down. Typically, patients with sciatica feel better over time, generally in a few weeks. If pain persists, however, injections might be discussed. Muscle cramps, which might accompany sciatica symptoms, might be treated with heat or cold. Your physician will tell you to take brief walks, and might prescribe physical therapy. Once you recover, your doctor may also give you exercises to strengthen your back.
Can Chiropractic Care Treat Sciatica?
Chiropractic care is one of the top treatment options used for sciatica pain. Utilizing a variety of methods and techniques, chiropractic care doesn't simply reduce the symptoms, it can ultimately fix the health issues associated with sciatica and prevent further circumstances of the collection of symptoms.
A good chiropractic care regimen might include spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, passive therapies, spinal decompression, massage therapy, and physical therapy to help reduce pain and correct the underlying problem causing it. A great chiropractic solution is going to be a plan which entails many or all of the above mentioned remedies as determined by your personal needs and recovery timeline. Furthermore, a chiropractor may recommend a series of appropriate stretches and exercises to help speed up the recovery process and promote a long-lasting recovery so you can live a pain-free life.
Dr. Alex Jimenez's Insight
Sciatica is a medical term used to describe a collection of symptoms, including, pain, numbness or tingling sensations, caused by the compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower back. Although symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, are commonly concentrated in the lower back, radiating pain or radiculopathy may sometimes occur along the length of the sciatic nerve. A bulging or herniated disc is one of the most prevalent health issues which lead to sciatica. It's essential to receive a proper diagnosis of any painful symptoms in order to follow-up with the best treatment options. Chiropractic care can help treat sciatica through the use of spinal adjustment and manual manipulations, among other treatment modalities, by carefully restoring the original alignment of the spine and reducing nerve compression and irritation associated with sciatic nerve pain.
If you believe that you are suffering from sciatic nerve pain, then consider the chiropractic care alternative solution. Many chiropractors can help by building a customized restoration plan around your requirements and goals. With years of experience, friendly employees, and innovative equipment, the proper chiropractor will get you back to normal the natural way. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Sciatica is medically referred to as a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury and/or condition. Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can vary in frequency and intensity, however, it is most commonly described as a sudden, sharp (knife-like) or electrical pain that radiates from the low back down the buttocks, hips, thighs and legs into the foot. Other symptoms of sciatica may include, tingling or burning sensations, numbness and weakness along the length of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica most frequently affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may often develop as a result of the degeneration of the spine due to age, however, the compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by a bulging or herniated disc, among other spinal health issues, may also cause sciatic nerve pain.