The sciatic nerve is the largest in the body running from the lower back through the buttocks and all the way down the leg. Sciatica is a condition that is specific to the compression or the pinching of the sciatic nerve. It often feels like a burning or an aching or shooting pain in the buttock into the groin or down to the leg, sometimes accompanied by numbness and tingling into the foot or toes.
Sciatica is very common because the sciatic nerve exits out from the bottom three to four joints of the lumbar spine right above the tailbone where much of the compression of the spine sits. Acute sciatica is something that comes on relatively quickly and lasts maybe only a couple of days to a couple of weeks while chronic sciatica comes on either gradually or quickly and lasts from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, perhaps even longer. That’s why, as soon as any kind of sciatic pain is felt, it’s important to get it treated as soon as possible so that it doesn’t become a chronic, long-lasting problem.
Whether your sciatica is the result of a disc issue, misalignment of the spine, or misalignment of the pelvis, chiropractic is the best way to get to the root cause of the issue and provide drugless, natural sciatica pain relief. It could also be a soft tissue injury or abnormal muscle tone in the back, hips, or buttocks that is compressing or strapping over the sciatic nerve. Finding the cause of the problem is the most important step in order to effectively treat sciatica and get rid of sciatica as quickly as possible.
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How We Treat Sciatica in Belmar, NJ
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
The first thing we do we every patient is take a very thorough, detailed history. Understanding their past experiences, what they do for a living, old accidents or injuries, past medical illnesses help paint a fuller picture of what is contributing to their pain and whether or not sciatica is actually the problem. It is of the utmost importance to gather all the information we can and, at Kinney Chiropractic, we pride ourselves on truly listening to each patient and taking our time to understand each unique situation.
We then conduct a chiropractic exam and functional exam along with orthopedic testing, neurologic testing, range of motion testing, and palpatory testing, to see exactly where the problems might be that are causing sciatica. Ultimately, we take detailed digital X-rays to assess the motion and alignment of the spine. All of this is in an effort to get to the root cause of the problem so that we can develop an individualized care plan to effectively and efficiently provide sciatica pain relief.
Specific Chiropractic Care
One of the most important things we assess for is called subluxation. A subluxation is when the joints in the spine, especially in the lower part of the spine where sciatica occurs, either shift out of normal alignment or become locked or stuck. Joints that are out of alignment or aren’t moving well compress the nerves that exit that joint. When there’s loss of motion in the joint nerve compression is going to cause pain, giving rise to the classic sciatica shooting pain into the body and down the leg.
The goal is to correct the subluxations, alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve, and restore motion to the spinal joints. With correct alignment and better motion, we allow the spine to function like it should and provide sciatic pain relief.
Detailed Therapeutic Care Plan
Once you go through our exam consultation, X-rays, we identify where the problems are – alignment or subluxation issues, early arthritis or degeneration – we can work very carefully to implement a customized care plan to address your specific needs. Chiropractic adjustments will help correct subluxations, restoring alignment and motion, but we’re also going to create an exercise plan for every one of our patients, including specific stretches and strengthening exercises, to support the lower back.
These stretches and exercises will help to increase flexibility, decrease muscle tension, and increase the strength of the spine’s stabilizing muscles to allow the adjustments to hold longer and prevent future injuries. Part of the therapeutic exercise plan is done in the office, but we also prescribe very detailed stretching and strengthening exercises for our patients to do at home.
Flexion-distraction is another extremely important part of our care plan. By decompressing the discs and stretching out the paraspinal muscles, this technique creates more space for the nerve to operate in between each disc, reducing pressure on the nerve and ultimately alleviating pain. Flexion-distraction works very well in tandem with chiropractic adjustments and therapeutic exercises.
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Common Causes of Sciatica in Belmar, NJ
Herniated or Bulging Disc
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or bulging disc. A disc acts as a shock absorber in between all the vertebrae, it looks like a jelly doughnut with a tougher outer ring of material called the annulus and a softer more jelly-like core called the nucleus. General wear and tear, abnormal alignment of the spine, obesity, physically demanding careers, can all put abnormal stress on discs and joints. When the discs are under a tremendous amount of stress the outer fibers of the disc begin to wear down and tear allowing for the nucleus to breakthrough. When the nucleus pushes through the outer rings of the disc we call that a bulge. If the nucleus squeezes all the way out to the exterior of the disc, that is a herniation.
A herniated disc can be very painful. If the nucleus exits the disc it will irritate the nerve and can cause shooting sciatica pain through the buttock and down into the leg. The pain can be intense and debilitating. Over time, the nucleus material will be reabsorbed by the body through a process called phagocytosis. Tiny immune system cells break down the material so it’s not taking up space where the nerve should be, but it takes a long time for that to happen.
Chiropractic care, adjustments, flexion-distraction, and therapeutic exercises help to create more space and less nerve irritation, decreasing sciatic pain and strengthening the area so you can live without the blazing, shooting pain of sciatica. If the pain does not respond to conservative chiropractic care, in the worst-case scenarios, surgery may be necessary. That’s why it’s so important to get in and try to correct the problem as soon as you are experiencing pain. The longer you live with sciatic pain, the more difficult it is to correct.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Discs that are dehydrated or nutrient deficient will flatten out and are unable to heal themselves. When discs shrink down and create less space for nerves to operate this is degenerative disc disease. Obesity is a risk factor for degenerative disc disease as well as smoking which enhances the dehydration and breakdown of discs. Physical jobs or manual labor that is hard on the body is also a risk factor for degenerative disc disease and ultimately sciatica.
Degenerative disc disease can be slowed down with conservative chiropractic care and management, but it cannot be reversed. Anytime we see early signs of degenerative disc disease on an X-ray, we make the patient well aware that adjustments are going to help to cease or reduce the progression of the disease but we can’t take away what’s already done.
Spinal stenosis is a different kind of degeneration where herniated discs, bone spurs, or degenerative joints push into the spinal cord itself. With stenosis pain, back pain isn’t as severe as the intense pain in the buttocks and down into the legs, and sitting and bending usually help to alleviate the pain. Stenosis causes pain, weakness in the legs, numbness and tingling into the legs or feet, and can affect nerve supply causing dysfunction in organs like the bowel or bladder.
Muscles Sprains or Strains
Muscle sprains or strains in the hips, back, or buttocks can also cause sciatica. Muscle strains are usually dull or achy pain localized to either the low back, hips, or butt and are worse with movement. They are usually caused by sudden activity from sports or repetitive motions at work or during manual labor.
Poor posture and a weak core can also give rise to muscle strains or spasms. Muscle spasms usually resolve relatively quickly, but they are something you want to fix as early as possible as they could be a symptom of an underlying problem like a herniated disc, degenerative disc, or stenosis.
SI Joint Dysfunction (Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction)
The sacroiliac joints sit below the bottom lumbar vertebrae, where the tailbone becomes a joint with the pelvis, both on the right and left side of the tailbone. 15 to 30% of lower back cases are actually coming from your SI joint. This joint is a shock absorber between the upper body and the lower body, so they absorb a lot of stress.
SI joint pain usually happens after an accident or fall, though it can often happen during pregnancy as the pelvis expands. Abnormal alignment of the pelvis that causes a leg discrepancy will give rise to SI joint pain. Often the SI joint can become either hypermobile, moving too much, or hypo mobile, not moving enough. With hypermobility SI joint dysfunction strengthening exercises are imperative to try to decrease the abnormal motion and stabilize the joint. When there’s not enough motion in the joint, chiropractic adjustments are very useful to correct that and increase flexibility.
At Kinney Chiropractic, the most common cause of sciatica is subluxation. Subluxations are when the joints don’t move very well, they shift out of alignment, or they become locked, decreasing range of motion and causing abnormal stress, pinching, and pressure on the nerves. This is a common culprit for sciatica pain in the lower back through the buttock and down into the legs. Chiropractors assess for subluxations all the time. There are many different adjustments we can do to correct alignment and improve range of motion to reduce sciatic pain and allow for better function.
Vertebrae are usually stacked one on top of the other. Spondylolisthesis is when one of the vertebrae shifts or slips forward compressing the discs abnormally and pinching all the nerves in the back part of the spine. That abnormal pressure, that slipping of one vertebra on another, can cause pain across the lower back or shooting pain into the legs. Spondylolisthesis is common among football players and gymnasts or other athletes with hypermobility in their lower back.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I see a doctor of chiropractic for my sciatica?
Yes! As soon as you start to feel any kind of discomfort, pain, or pressure in your back into your buttock and the hips or down into the leg that absolutely needs to be checked out immediately by a chiropractor.
What can I do to help alleviate my sciatica in Belmar New Jersey?
First things first, you want to see a chiropractor to make sure that it’s not an issue resulting from your discs, arthritis, degeneration of the spine, or something worse. Make sure that you have X-rays taken as soon as possible to get the clearest picture of what’s going on inside your spine. From there we can develop a care plan unique to you to provide you with sciatica relief.
What’s the best treatment for sciatica in Belmar, NJ?
The best treatment for sciatica is conservative chiropractic care. A comprehensive care plan including chiropractic adjustments and motion stretching is critical to getting sciatica pain relief.
What causes sciatica to flare up?
Many things cause sciatica to flare up: abnormal alignment of the spine, manual labor, old accidents, old injuries, sitting in one position too long, driving in one position for too long, running, abnormal weightlifting…It is critical to get any issues checked as early as possible so that you can get them corrected before it becomes a bigger problem.