Posted: March 24, 2014
Have you ever said or heard someone say, 'my sciatica is acting up again?' Today the term 'sciatica' has become a general term for lower back pain and discomfort. There are many conditions that may present as sciatic pain and are actually caused by other conditions; as a result, these causes are over looked and a patient suffers continually from their condition.
Lets talk about the sciatic nerve. The Sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in your body. It often is the size of your pinky finger. Nerve roots exit on both sides of your lumbar spine (low back) and join into one large nerve yielding the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs along the back of your buttock, thigh and leg into your foot. As the nerve runs along the back of the leg, divisions of the nerve disperse.
True sciatic is the irritation of the nerve roots as they exit from small openings in the spine. If these nerves become irritated, symptoms may present as buttock pain, posterior leg pain, weakness in leg muscles and changes in sensational touch of the involved leg. It is here that the symptoms become tricky. Other conditions which people present with may show similar symptoms.
Have you heard of piriformis syndrome? This conditions is caused by a muscle having an impact on the sciatic nerve. Research and studies have shown the sciatic nerve has three different ways to pass the piriformis muscle. The sciatic nerve has been found to pass through, under or over the piriformis muscle. Consequently, a change in the structure of the piriformis muscle (due to sitting, squatting, driving etc.) can press on the large sciatic nerve in the buttock region.
Your sacroiliac joints are located at the very bottom of your spine and may present with a large amount of pain. Since this pain can refer into the buttock region some mistake this for their sciatic pain. These joints can present with dysfunction due to both tight hamstring and hip flexor muscles as well. Chiropractors have special tests which help them differentiate between the causes of discomfort in these regions.
Another overlooked cause to a patient's discomfort in the low back, gluteal region and leg can be something known as 'trigger points.' These are hyperactive regions in muscles which refer pain in a pattern to different parts of your body. Some muscles which have trigger point referral patterns to this area include Quadratus Lumborum, Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Minimus, Piriformis and the Gemellus group of muscles.
Studies show chiropractors have great success working with Piriformis Syndrome and trigger points in additions to Sciatic conditions. A chiropractor will help move the joints in your low back to make sure proper biomechanics is restored and nerve interference is eliminated. Furthermore, they will address the muscle imbalance which may be present. Once proper biomechanics is restored, the doctor will provide exercises and stretches to decrease the amount of possible relapses.