Are you experiencing a pain that runs from the back, into the hip and down the leg? If so, it could be sciatica. Sciatica is a compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve from the body extending from the spine (lower back) through pelvis, and down the leg to the foot. When this nerve is compressed, often patients feel a numbness, tingling, or deep ache that is unrelenting.
The sciatic nerve can be affected in multiple places and for multiple reasons. The most common is an injury to the L4,5 or S1 discs. A herniation or bulge produces inflammation and compression on the sciatic nerve as it leaves the spine. Other causes include degeneration of the lumbar vertebrae and muscle ‘pinching’ the nerve.
Sciatica is extremely common with a 5-10% of patients with back pain experiencing it. Sciatica can have an intense initial pain in the back, hip, and leg with or without numbness and tingling or a slow gradual onset. Whenever a nerve is pinched, it is important to find out why as soon as possible.
Chiropractors find the cause of sciatica whether it be disc, bone or muscle and utilize various treatments to treat the specific cause.
How We Treat Sciatica Pain In Portland, ME
Comprehensive Consultation and Examination
The consultation and examination are all focused on you, the patient, and finding the root cause of your back, hip and leg pain. We start by getting to know you as a person and how your sciatica pain is impacting life. We then get an in-depth knowledge of your health history, the stressors of life, and what in your life is affected due to having sciatica.
We then perform a complete comprehensive exam using our M.A.P.S. approach. Through specific testing of your nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems to determine where there are issues with Movement, Alignment (posture), Pain (stiffness), and Strength of the back, hip and leg. We can then answer the questions every patient has: What’s wrong? How can We help? How long will it take to get better?
Specific Chiropractic Care In Portland, ME
Our Chiropractic adjustments focus on restoring proper Movement, Alignment, and relieving pressure on the sciatic nerve. These specific movements are designed to be comfortable, gentle, and targeted directly at the root cause of pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The back and hip have many moving parts, and when they are not moving it can cause irritation to the nerves, muscles, and joint movement. That is what chiropractic does. Through Manipulation it restores proper muscle and joint movement to allow nerve flow.
Many patients are nervous for their first adjustment but are pleasantly surprised that it is pain free, provides instant relief, and you walk out feeling much better.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
One of the major reasons patient get sciatica is when the back is ‘ overactive ‘ due to a weak or imbalanced core. It is important that we teach you how to perform stretches and exercises to help restore balance to the core. A strong core keeps you healthy.
That is the key. We teach you how to take care of you. Our goal is to get you out of pain fast, keep you that way and teach you what you can do every day to feel great.
When patients team up with our doctors through performing their corrective exercise program, they not only feel better temporarily, but it gets lasting relief.
Spinal Decompression in Portland, ME
A specific tool that we utilize in our practice is Spinal Decompression. This treatment focuses on specific treatment to the disc that can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The disc is the ‘shock absorber’ of your spine and sits right next to the nerves that control your entire lower body. When the disc has a condition such as a herniation or disc bulge, the sciatic nerve gets irritated resulting in pain in the back and legs, numbness and tingling, or even complete limitation of life.
Chiropractic adjustments help to alleviate pain and exercises help to strengthen the core to protect the discs, but discs need a different treatment to heal properly. The only way a disc can heal is through taking pressure off the spine and slowly addition it back on, like squishing a sponge and releasing it to absorb water, to treat a disc we have to stretch the spine to heal the disc. Spinal decompression is the only thing that targets specific discs to allow for healing at a deep level. With true healing of your disc, you can then strengthen the core to restore proper movement to the spine and prevent further irritation to the disc resulting in not just feeling better, but staying better.
Common Causes of Sciatica Pain in Portland, ME
Herniated Lumbar Discs
Similar to a bulging disc, when the discs wear down, dry out, or break down over time the disc can be injured further. In a bulging disc, a flattening out occurs and irritates the nerves that run next to it. A more severe case of this is a herniated disc. This is when the disc, being so injured, actually sticks out and starts to cut off the nerves ability to control the sensations of the foot, reflexes, or even the muscles of the lower back. Many patients describe an acute disc hernation as a feeling of a sharp pain with the inability to move afterwards.
The result of a disc herniation can be the feeling of being ‘ stabbed ‘ with sharp pain in the back, severe inflammation and pain in the lower back, loss of sensation in the foot, and loss of muscle control.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Some patients experience a slow breakdown of the disc where the disc flattens, dries up, and loses the ability to cusion between the joints and vertebrae in the spine. Often time we see this is an age related condition when discs break down. Several lifestyle choices such as obesity, smoking and work that is hard on the spine can contribute result in a slow breakdown of the spine over time.
When the disc flattens, this shrinks the space between the vertebrae resulting in less room for the nerves to pass by. This also increases pressure on the joints to absorb the forces of life when the disc can no longer sufficiently do it. That is why we almost always see a osteoarthritis, or ‘arthritis’ of the joints in the same area complicating things further and causing more back pain.
This condition can not be reversed, but it can be slowed from progressing utilizing chiropractic, exercises, and spinal decompression.
Spinal Stenosis occurs when the spinal canal (tunnel that the spinal cord goes through) has lost spacing and compresses the spinal cord. When this occurs, it not only affects the spine, but also causes irritation to the nerves that pass through that area resulting in pain, weakness, numbness. Spinal stenosis can also affect organ function such as bowel or bladder.
Many patients report that standing and walking increases pain, while rest, sitting, and bending forward can relieve the pain. Patients often use grocery carts to shop and make sure that when they do go out, there is a seat every few minutes to rest and decrease pain.
Spinal stenosis can be caused by degenerative changes of the joints (arthritis) of the spine, by degeneration of the ligaments that line the spine (ligament thickening), disc herniation, disc bulges, and bone spurs of the spine.
Muscle Strain or Spasm
One cause for sciatica is muscle guarding of the lower back. This is when your body tightens to protect the spine. This muscle guarding or spasming, can create constant dull, aching pain that intensifies with movement.
The causes for muscle spasms can be sudden strain on the muscle or repetitive motion such as poor posture or a weak core. These conditions can self-resolve. However, it is important to assess why it is happening. Many patients with this condition will report their back ‘ going out 3-4 times per year with pain lasting 1-2 weeks.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
One of the areas that absorbs the most force / pressure in the lower back is called the Saroiliac Joint. This is the connection between the spine and the hips. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction accounts for 15-30% of low back pain cases. Pelvic dysfunction can occur due to multiple reasons with some of the most common being pregnancy, falls, repetitive stress through bending over and through prolonged crossing legs while seated. These various challenges that life puts on our Sacroiliac Joint results in either moving too much (Hypermobility causing instability) or moving too little ( Hypomobility causing restrictions).
The most common thing we hear from patients is they feel ‘ off ‘ or their legs feel uneven. This is because when the Sacroiliac Joints have dysfunction, both spinal movement and hip movement is affected. It is very common to see this accompanied with lower back pain, hip pain and knee pain due to the importance of the joint and the muscles that compensate when the Sacroiliac Joint is not moving properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I see a doctor or a chiropractor about Sciatica?
Knowing the cause for sciatica is one of the most important things. If Sciatica doesn’t resolve with in 3-5 days then finding out the root cause of your pain is important.
What can I do to relieve my sciatica pain in Portland, ME?
If your pain is severe, ICE for 15 – 30 minutes every 2 hours. Regularly get up and move between intervals of rest. It is important to move as much as possible while trying to manage the pain. Avoid straightening the leg and bending over.
What is the best treatment for sciatica?
A combination of adjustment, Spinal Decompression and Exercises will give you the most relief in the short term and long term.
How should I lay with Sciatica?
The best way to lay is on your side with knees bent or on your back with knees bent.
How long does sciatica last?
Depending on the cause of your sciatica it can self resolve quickly or can take months to go away. This is why knowing the cause is so important.
Can stretching make sciatica worse?
Knowing the cause of your sciatica will help to know which stretches will prove the most relief. If you do the wrong stretch (ie: stretching the hamstring although it hurts) it can worsen the condition.
How do I get my sciatic nerve to stop hurting?
The first thing to do is utilize heat / ice to provide temporary relief. Next, watch our video on finding out the cause of sciatica to determine what steps are best for you.
What causes sciatica flare ups?
Sciatica flares can be due to weak core strength, improper bending / or lifting, repetitive stress through sitting in bad posture, arthritis of the back, or disc conditions in the lower back.
Should I go to the gym with sciatica?
Movement is good. However, you will most likely find that light exercises done for limited time ( 30 mintues ) will provide some relief, while exercising more aggressively or for longer periods of time will result in worsening of your sciatic pain.
What exercises help with sciatica?
The exercises you perform will be based on the cause of your sciatica. Watch our online videos to determine what is causing your sciatica.