Here at Vital Family Chiropractic we know that sciatic pain may affect up to 40% of the population. It is widespread, and the reality for those suffering from sciatica can be extremely bleak. Symptoms can range from mild low back pain or pain in the buttocks or legs to numbness and tingling in the leg, or even as severe as debilitating pain with significant loss of function of the muscles in the lower extremity. Everyday activities can sometimes make sciatic pain worse – such as bending, lifting, twisting, or even walking. Some people manage their sciatic pain by adjusting the way they walk, leading to an antalgic gait. Antalgic gait develops when you change your stride length on the leg affected by sciatica in response to your pain, resulting in a limp. If you have been living with this kind of gait, that could indicate how chronic this issue has become.
Unfortunately, the older or heavier an individual is, the worse these symptoms can become. The most common individuals to become affected by sciatica are middle-aged men. Men experience sciatica up to three times more than women, and while people as young as their 20s can suffer from sciatic nerve pain, it’s most common in adults in their 40s and 50s.
Most people consider sciatica a condition of its own when in reality, it’s a symptom of a more significant problem. We need to be aware of the many causes of sciatica.
Sometimes sciatica is caused by herniated discs. Disc herniation is most often the result of chronic wear and tear on the vertebra. The spinal canal can become narrow and occluded because the lumbar vertebrae undergo the most consistent stress and support the most weight. The narrowing of the spinal canal is called spinal stenosis, which can irritate the sciatic nerve. Trauma of any kind can cause sciatica, especially if there is forward slippage of one vertebra on top of the one below it. Because the sciatic nerve is the longest in your body, it’s all too easy to get into an accident and affect that nerve from blunt trauma. Pregnancy-related changes can often lead to sciatic pain, especially if mom was not under chiropractic care prior.
Because the causes of sciatica are many, it is critical to understand the source before you try to resolve the issue. Otherwise, the pain could keep coming back over and over, or you could potentially make the problem worse.
Vertebra, or multiple vertebrae, lose their natural motion becoming fixated or “stuck,” causing inflammation and a build-up of pressure on the nerves exiting the lumbar spine.
Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain
These are injuries caused by sudden rapid movements (car accidents, sports accidents, slips at home, working) that result in either tearing or injury to the muscles in the low back (strain) or overstretching and injury to the ligaments (sprain).
Lumbar Herniated Disc
The center of the spinal disc can bulge out of it’s normal location due to acute injury or chronic wear and tear. This protrusion places pressure on and irritates the lumbar nerve roots, and it can even affect the spinal cord itself.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Discs are mostly water throughout life. As people age, discs lose hydration and thin out. As the disc dehydrates, it cannot resist forces as well and transfers pressure to the disc wall, which may develop tears and cause pain or weakening that can lead to a herniation. The disc can also collapse and contribute to stenosis.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
These are the joints in your lumbar vertebrae. They allow your lumbar bones to bend, twist, flex, and extend. These joints can be painful by themselves or in conjunction with disc pain.
Acute fractures or dislocations of the spine can lead to pain. Lower back pain that develops after a trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall, should be properly addressed as soon as possible.
Whether it’s demanding working conditions, working from home, or household responsibilities (cooking, cleaning), poor posture places much stress on the low back’s bones, muscles, and ligaments.
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Understanding the specific cause of your sciatica pain is critical in managing it, so we always start with an in-depth analysis of your body and your concerns. Our doctors will take the time to sit with you, listen to your concerns, ask specific questions, and thoroughly examine you. Functional range of motion, postural analysis, functional weight-bearing stance, hands-on palpation of your lumbar spine, and, if needed, X-rays will help determine the specific cause of your sciatic pain.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Lakewood, Wa
As chiropractors in Lakewood, WA, we analyze the spine for “subluxation.” This term refers to the vertebra or multiple vertebrae that lose their natural motion becoming fixated or “stuck.” This loss of healthy movement can cause inflammation of the soft tissue and pressure and irritation to the nerves leaving the spinal cord. Subluxation can absolutely cause sciatic pain. It can also cause a whole host of other health concerns such as digestive disorders, reproductive issues, extremity pain, tingling, and or numbness.
The only way to remove subluxation present in the spine is through gentle, specific chiropractic care. The chiropractic adjustment restores normal motion into the spine, thus removing that built-up pressure on your nervous system. The most significant factor when it comes to helping resolve your headaches is time. The amount of time your body has been injured and subluxated will help us determine when we should expect to see significant improvements. If subluxation is the cause of your recurring headaches, you must address it; otherwise, you may be stuck chasing pain without any resolution.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Every patient is unique. At Vital Family Chiropractic, we use our exam findings (including X-ray) to help determine which exercises in and out of the office will be right for you. In our office, we will always teach you how to properly warm up the soft tissue in your neck before each adjustment; however, what we do at home and work matters just as much! Whether it’s a 9-5 desk job, heavy construction, parenting, or students glued to their textbooks, we all have stressful lifestyles. We have to balance and mitigate that stress through specific targeted therapy. Our doctors will sit with you and review all the necessary exercises to perform in our office prior to every adjustment, as well as things to do at home to ensure that your body has the best possible chance of recovering.
Massage Therapy in Lakewood, WA
Because the sciatic nerve is the longest in the human body, it relies heavily on a healthy soft tissue system (muscles, ligaments, tendons), and we must take care of it. The health of our low back muscles directly relates to how well we receive an adjustment and how long our body holds onto it.
Our licensed massage therapists are skilled in assessing the lower back and pelvis to determine the critical areas of muscular imbalances, tension, and injury. Whether it be from an automobile accident, overuse, or poor posture, the health of low back muscles, ligaments, and fascia heavily impacts the level of pain we feel as well as the level of motion our spine is capable of having.
Our therapists utilize several soft tissue therapy techniques to give you the best possible experience. Techniques include:
- Swedish Massage
- Trigger Point
- Deep Tissue
- Lymphatic Drainage
- Myofascial Release
- Chair Massage
- And more!
How do I know if my sciatic pain is serious?
The normal amount of sciatic pain a person should feel is no pain at all. However, we live in a world where jobs are demanding, and people are constantly on the go, so, unfortunately, sciatic pain can be common. Serious sciatic pain could look like numbness and tingling down one or both legs, muscular weakness, or regular use of pain medication. Pain during bowel movements or the inability to control your bladder are potentially extremely serious and should be addressed as soon as you notice it.
Why won’t my sciatic pain go away?
There are a few reasons your sciatic pain may be a recurring issue.
1) You may be just addressing the symptoms without ever addressing the underlying cause of the pain.
2) You may not be giving your body enough time to heal.
The longer you live with sciatic pain, the longer it may take to heal. Remember, pain may come and go, but the absence of pain doesn’t mean the healing is done! Give your body the appropriate amount of time needed to heal.
What is better for sciatic pain: a chiropractor or massage?
Comparing chiropractic to massage is like comparing apples to oranges! Both effectively manage low back pain; however, they accomplish different goals. Massage is great for relieving pain and decreasing tension; however, it may not be getting after the root cause of low back pain. The adjustment aims to restore normal range of motion to the spine, allowing the nervous system to operate normally. We want to go after the cause of sciatic pain, not just the symptom.
When should I see a chiropractor in Lakewood, WA for sciatic pain?
The best time to be examined for sciatic pain is before the onset of pain! Often there are many signs of dysfunction in the low back that predate any signs of physical pain. Stiffness, limited range of motion, weakness, and numbness are all indicators of an issue requiring attention.
How can you tell if your spine is out of alignment?
As chiropractors in Lakewood, WA, our primary focus is on detecting subluxation (misalignment) and removing it through chiropractic adjustment. There are several ways we determine areas of subluxation. We use our hands to palpate the spine for edema, inflammation, chronically tight muscles, and loss of vertebral motion. We also utilize thermal scanning to more precisely see spinal inflammation. X-ray technology allows us to see structural misalignment such as degeneration and loss of normal curvature, all of which can place abnormal pressure on the nervous system.