Written by Dr. Matthew Alvord DC, DPhCS
Sciatica is a name given to a condition when the sciatic nerve is irritated. This nerve begins in your hips and supplies information to and from the brain, all the way down both legs to your toes. Pain from this condition can cause any number of symptoms anywhere along this pathway such as pain, tingling, numbness and weakness. But if we really want to get to the cause of sciatica, the most important question to ask is, “why”?
In chiropractic, we specifically ask if there are spinal subluxations, which are interfering with your body’s ability to communicate with itself. The resulting dysfunction can cause irritation of the sciatic nerve directly in the hip area where it’s located, but often times this irritation is just compensation to a problem higher up in the spine. So the cause of your low back and leg condition could really be starting as a problem somewhere else, even as high as your upper neck! And to boot, the truly problematic area somewhere else may actually feel just fine.
Treating the effects of sciatic symptoms will never deal with the cause of this interference. The traditional ways to treat this issue usually involves medications such as muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories and pain relievers. Physical therapies include stretching, strengthening or massage. But why are the muscles tight, or weak, or spasming? Your body needs to make exact compensations for the dysfunction by changing the muscle tone. Manipulating muscle disregards this state. Why would your intelligent body spend all that energy with inflaming and swelling? Inflammation is the main way your body protects you and heals you. Swelling just creates a natural river for all the healing components to get to the area better, while allowing the dead tissues to be washed away so they can be replaced. Anti-inflammatories stop this vital process. And why would your brilliant body give you pain? To slow you down so your body can heal. Pain relievers slow healing and let you push your body harder than it would normally allow. That is like having the oil light come on in your car right before you leave for a road trip but you decide to disconnect the light instead of changing the oil. The dashboard looks great, but the car is being pushed harder than it should be.
All the structures of your body, from your muscles controlling movement, to your organs making healing chemicals and running the entire healing process, to your nerves themselves, which transmit all your experiences, painful or not: They are all controlled and coordinated by your nervous system. This system must be able to communicate intelligent orders from your brain to all these other structures without interference, otherwise it cannot adapt appropriately to all the demands on your body, including something that might even produce symptoms such as sciatica. Regardless of what you decide to do about your sciatica, let your body make good decisions by allowing it to adapt as it is supposed to, through clear nerve channels, through a clear spine. Get checked for subluxations and give your spine a leg up with sciatica.