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What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is the nerve pain that occurs following irritation, inflammation, or injury to the sciatic nerve itself. Though the sciatic nerve is rarely the actual source of injury, the term “sciatica” is widely used throughout the medical community to describe any pain originating in the lower lumbar region of the back that also radiates down one leg.
There is often no rhyme or reason for sciatic pain. The pain may gradually worsen or a person may wake up feeling excruciating sudden pain depending on the cause of injury.

Common causes of sciatica include:

  • Arthritis or osteoarthritis in the spine may result in cartilage degenerating over time, irritating the sciatic nerve.
  • A herniated disk, the most common cause of sciatica, results in increased pressure on the nerve root attached to the sciatic nerve, causing injury and irritation.
  • Discomfort due to natural wear on the body, including the disks located between each vertebra in the spine. Degenerative disk disease often leads to a decrease in height of a person, as well as spinal stenosis which pinches the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis is classified as the abnormal narrowing of an opening or exit passage of the spinal column where nerve roots travel. When these passageways narrow, it affects the space available for the spinal cord and nerves, like the sciatic nerve, causing pain, pressure, and injury to the nerve root.

Symptoms of sciatica:

Sciatica symptoms vary from one person to the next. The most common symptom of those suffering an injury to the sciatic nerve is sharp, shooting pain along the sciatic nerve.

Other symptoms include:

  • Numbness in the legs
  • Tingling or the feeling of “pins and needles” in the feet or toes
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area

Symptoms of irritation to the sciatic nerve are often only present in one leg rather than both. A person may experience pain in one area of the leg and numbness or tingling in another.

The pain ranges from a mild ache to a burning sensation or sharp, excruciating pain that radiates from the lumbar spine down the back of the leg. The pain is often worsened by long periods of inactivity or sitting, as well as coughing or sneezing.

Initial Treatment:

Conventional medical treatment for sciatic nerve pain involves treating the symptoms through medication management of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and narcotic pain medication without addressing the root cause. Unlike conventional medicine, chiropractic care focuses on treating the underlying cause of pain, injury, or irritation.

At Tualatin Accident & Injury Chiropractic, our board-certified chiropractors specialize in treating musculoskeletal disorders derived from whiplash injuries, car accident injuries, and other high-impact injuries affecting this crucial body system. Whether an injury is apparent following an automobile accident or not, chiropractic care from one of our specialists can help to prevent future damage by ensuring proper spinal alignment, adequate spacing between the vertebrae, and providing education.

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