As we age, many of us begin to experience low back pain. A result of the natural gravitational effects of aging and everyday movement, low back pain can appear gradually over time or after a sudden movement or injury. Frequently, lumbar pain can turn into sciatica, painful inflammation and irritation of the nerve that runs from the low back down through the legs. Senara specializes in treating painful conditions associated with the lumbar region, and is a leader in the Peoria area for non-invasive, natural back pain treatment of sciatic pain with Decompression Traction Therapy.
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Low Back Pain
While the onset of low back pain varies in origin and causation, it is essentially a result of compression or irritation to the nerves. In some cases a protruding or herniated intervertebral disc (often called a bulging disc) can place pressure on nerves when the disc is squashed. Over time the squishy material that makes up the disc can become thinner and tougher — this is known as degenerative disc disease — and it too can cause irritation to the nerves by decreasing the space for the nerve to exit the spine. Another cause of low back pain can be due to narrowing, also called stenosis, of the opening that the nerve travels through, which can cause the problem. A common culprit of sciatica is actually a muscle known as the piriformis muscle. This little muscle is found in the buttock and can entrap the sciatic nerve. This condition is known as piriformis syndrome. Pain can be felt from the lower back and can even travel down the leg.
Have you ever felt as if a white-hot poker was stabbing you in the butt cheek, complete with pain that travels down your leg? If you haven’t, chances are that you have heard a friend, coworker, or family member describe that sort of sensation. This is a very typical description of the pain felt when experiencing sciatica. So, what on earth could cause this kind of pain?
To understand sciatica it’s important to understand the main structure that is involved, the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest bundle of nerves extending from the spinal cord in the human body. It is a combination of five very large nerves, all wrapped up together, and they travel from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the back of the leg. Along the way, the nerve has to pass through several openings and between a few muscles. As the nerve travels down the buttocks and leg, it branches out and innervates many of the muscles and tissues. The sciatic nerve also transmits pain and sensory signals from these areas. When the sciatic nerve is compressed in any way, it can cause major low back pain.
What are the characteristics of sciatica?
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg, but can (rarely) occur in both legs
- Pain can travel down to different spots in the buttocks, leg, or calf depending on the individual nerve being compressed
- Pain varies from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation, or even an electric shock
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Burning or tingling down the leg
- Sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
So what is actually happening to the nerve? Think about the sciatic nerve as a highway running through a large city. There are many on- and off-ramps along with a lot of traffic moving in both directions. Imagine that the highway is designed well and traffic flows properly without any problems. What happens on a busy highway when the road starts to fall apart and construction closes down half of the lanes? You have what is called a bottleneck. This bottleneck backs up traffic and causes irritation to the drivers, possibly even a little road rage or an accident. The road itself is obviously in the need of repair, and crews have to respond to fix the problems. Now think of a nerve being pinched and signals that are traveling back and forth are being altered. The irritation manifests as pain and the altered signals show up as tingling or numbness. The repair crew can also cause inflammation to the area while trying to fix the problem. Now you should have a better understanding of how sciatica pain, and nerve pain in general, are caused.
Treatment for Low Back Pain and Sciatica
The good news is that sciatica and low back pain can be alleviated with chiropractic care and some physical therapy. A chiropractor’s job is to take the pressure off of the nerve and increase the ability of that nerve to function, ultimately providing natural back pain relief. Our chiropractors do this by adjusting the bones in the lower back and pelvis. Physical therapy is used to stretch and strengthen the structures around the affected area to prevent future relapse. When a disc herniation or disc degeneration is the cause of your low back pain, your Senara Doctor may recommend spinal decompression therapy, which helps to decompress the lower back and take pressure off the nerve. In some cases, conservative care is not enough, and a referral to the appropriate facility is considered. Common medical treatments at this point can include pain injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and the possibility of surgery.