Sciatica is an interesting disorder. Why? Well, it’s interesting because so many people claim to have it, but not all of them do. So let me elaborate on this. The most common description that patients give me when discussing sciatica is simply “I have leg pain”. Although sciatica typically does cause leg pain, the disorder itself is a bit more complicated than that. So let us first understand the anatomy of the lower back to get a better understanding of sciatica.
Every human body is comprised of many bones, 206 to be exact. There are a series of bones that run the length of your body that make up your spine. The spine holds the body erect. It acts as a pathway for the spinal cord to run the distance between your brain and your tailbone via the spinal canal. The bones that make up the spine are called vertebra.
The lower back (lumbar) is made up of 5 vertebrae and connects the rest of the spine to the tailbone (sacrum). Between each vertebra there is a piece of cartilage called a disc. The cartilage is elastic enough to allow the spine to bend and twist but tough enough to support the body’s weight. Each combination of vertebra, disc, vertebra creates a tunnel for nerves to pass through on either side of the spine called Foramen. These nerves are the culprit for sciatica pain.
What is sciatica?
When you’re looking at the anatomy of the lower back, focus on the segments between the L4 and S1. Now let’s take a look at the nerves between each segment. The ones between the L4 and L5, and the L5 and S1. These particular nerves are most affected. When these nerves exit the back, for the most part, they bundle up to form a larger nerve called the sciatic nerve. So, when one of these nerves are compressed or ‘pinched’, then pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness can travel down the leg. This is sciatica. Sciatica can affect either leg or both at the same time. But we need to determine the reason why the nerves are compressed in the first place. Let’s talk about that next.
What is the cause of nerve compression?
There are a few common spine conditions that can compress a nerve. The most common are bulging and herniated discs. But other conditions like disc degeneration, disc thinning, osteoarthritis and synovial cysts can also compress nerves. We’ll discuss each one of these conditions on a separate newsletter in the future so, right now all we need to know is when a nerve is compressed it can essentially interfere with the signals from the brain, causing all the previously mentioned symptoms. You may be saying, “Ok, now I have a better understanding of what sciatica is and why I may have it but, how do I make it go away?” Good question! Let me answer that for you next.
How do you treat sciatica?
Well depending on what disorder is actually compressing the nerve is what will determine the best treatment for your sciatica. If the root cause is some sort of inter segmental dysfunction like a disc issue, then creating more space in between each vertebra to enlarge the canals which those nerves pass through will be the easiest and most effective treatment. There are other ways to treat the disc and some of those can involve injections that assist with inflammation or surgical alternatives that remove disc or bony material that is encroaching on these canals, as well.
However, the ultimate conservative treatment for nerve compression in the lower back that can lead to sciatica would have to be non-surgical spinal decompression, like that of the DRX9000. It has been shown in research studies that increasing the intersegmental space simultaneously creates negative pressure within the disk itself and will ultimately create more space, retracting any disc material that may be encroaching on the canals and increase overall hydration of the disc itself.
So now that you have a better understanding of sciatica you can ask yourself if this is what you may be experiencing or not.
Our office has studied these cases for years and done the research to ensure we are determining the actual cause of the sciatica. You do not have to continue to suffer. We can confidently help you get the answers you need and find the best treatment options for your specific case. Call our office at 310-451-5851 or sign up for your FREE CONSULTATION now!
Article written by Dr. Peter Le, D.C.