Sciatica is a condition that causes leg pain with numbness and tingling or weakness beginning from the lower back to the buttocks and down the back of the legs. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the entire body. Many people mistake sciatica for a disease, but it is actually a symptom. It brings about consistent pain usually on only one side of the body, and the pain radiates down the leg and may reach as far as the toes. As a Salt Lake City sciatica chiropractor, the most common complaint we hear from patients is the searing, tingling, or burning pain they feel that gets worse when sitting.
Five Questions to Ask to Determine Sciatica
Back pain does not usually accompany sciatica, or, if it does, it is only minor. Dr. Eric Mayer, a sports and spine specialist at Cleveland’s Clinic Center for Spine Health, states that it is confirmed sciatica if the pain is reported as 80% leg pain with only very little back pain.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to determine whether the pain you are feeling is nerve-related or originating from your muscles.
Are you an athlete?
Muscle strain is often experienced by people who extensively use their leg muscles on a daily basis, such as triathlon athletes and those who regularly run on treadmills. If you do not fit these criteria, then you probably have sciatica and not a muscle strain. Piriformis syndrome is very similar to sciatica and has the same symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness beginning in the buttocks and running down the back of the leg. In piriformis syndrome, the piriformis muscle near the top of the hip joint presses on the sciatic nerve. You should address this problem to relieve sciatic pain.
Do you have weakness in your leg?
We have mentioned that the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that runs from the lower spine reaching as far as the foot and toes. When this nerve gets pinched, it can result in disrupted function, causing pain, tingling, and weakness. Although pain is a common sign, the weakness in one leg is the key giveaway for doctors to recognize sciatica. The weakness of the leg is also more concerning, and Dr. Mayer suggests that you seek professional care if you recognize weakness on your leg or body part.
Can you reproduce your pain on demand?
When reporting your pain to the doctor, it is important to be specific. To determine if your pain is sciatica or muscle-induced, push hard on the muscles of your lower back using your thumb. If pain is triggered, then you are most likely suffering from a muscle problem and not sciatica. Sciatica pain cannot be reproduced through pressure.
Did you test positive for sciatica?
The doctors will try to test you for suspected sciatica. It involves having to lie down with your feet stretched out. The doctor will then raise your leg to 70 degrees. If pain is felt down your entire leg down to your toes, you have sciatica. This is because this procedure stretches your entire sciatic nerve, and you will experience pain if the root of the nerve is pinched.
Do you have a loss of bowel and bladder function?
The loss of these functions, along with sciatica, is a medical emergency. Although it is very rare, the spinal column may be putting intense pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can cause permanent bowel and bladder damage. If you are experiencing this, seek professional care as soon as possible.
Luckily, 80% of the time, sciatica heals up on its own. An acute case of sciatica may entirely be resolved by itself after 90 days, but you should still seek medical care if you are having bowel or bladder issues. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help you cope during this period. However, let’s look at sciatica at a different angle.
Natural Relief for Sciatica
You might have tried everything to relieve your sciatica, including medications and other self-care methods. Although these may have given you temporary relief, your sciatica might have come back again. People often overlook the contribution of upper spinal conditions to lower back issues.
Here in Elevation Chiropractic Center in Salt Lake City, we focus on upper cervical chiropractic care, specifically on the top bone of the spine called the atlas. When there is a misalignment in this part, the entire spine shifts to compensate for the weight of the head to keep it level and balanced. This twisting and tilting of the spine can impact the sciatic nerve, which leads to sciatica.
We use a gentle and precise method that does not involve cracking or popping of the neck to get results. By using a natural way to realign the bones, the adjustment lasts longer. A lot of our patients have seen vast improvements in their symptoms with just a few adjustments. There is no need for medications, and the symptoms rarely return.