Why Sciatica Happens
Between each one of your vertebrae (the bones in your spine), there are nerves that come out from your spinal cord. If you have had any number of car accident (even fender benders), slips and falls, sports injuries, repetitive motion injuries, or have had poor posture for years, these bones no longer move properly, or are now slightly out of the ideal position. We call this a subluxation—that’s when the bones put pressure on the nerves, and that causes a problem wherever the nerves go.
When the problem is significant enough, either due to a sprained or unstable joint in your lower back, some of your muscles, such as one called the piriformis, can spasm (because your brain is trying to stabilize the area). This spasm can directly pinch the sciatic nerve, which then causes traveling pain down your butt, thigh or even into your leg, ankle, or foot. In some cases, sciatica is the result of a disc in your spine that has begun to degenerate, bulge, “slip,” or herniate.
How We Tackle Sciatica Treatment
First, and as always, we need to determine the cause of your sciatic nerve tension with a great spinal exam, and a thorough muscle testing evaluation. At times, we also use standardized orthopedic tests to help us to determine where your problem originates. Once we do all of these tests, we will address those problems with chiropractic adjustments, spinal decompression, McKenzie exercises (when necessary), muscle activation, Active Release Techniques, and in some cases, dry needling.
These treatments will get alleviate muscle spasm, ensure that your sciatic nerve is gliding freely over and under every muscle it passes by, and ultimately, correct the subluxation in your spine, where the problem likely started in the first place.
How To Prevent Sciatica
As with lower back pain, the best way to prevent sciatica is the same way you would prevent tooth decay and dental disease—by going to the doctor who treats it BEFORE it becomes a problem. When patients come to us for prevention, we are able to catch the problems in the spine and muscular system before they cause a crisis or injury, which can lead to disability and not being able to do the things they need to do, have to do, or love to do. Regular exercise, stretching, foam rolling, and doing “pre-hab” exercises with bands can certainly help prevent these problems.
One of the best stretches you can do for sciatica is called the “Figure Four” stretch. This involves lying on your back, bending your knee on the affected side, and crossing that ankle over your opposite thigh, above your opposite knee, and then pulling the unaffected leg towards your chest. This motion will stretch your piriformis muscle, your small hip external rotators, and your lateral hamstrings on the side where the sciatic nerve is entrapped or irritated. If, for some reason, you find that these stretches or others make you feel worse, please stop and contact us right away—you could be dealing with a significant disc herniation!