How Sciatica Affects Your Lower Extremities

Do you have pain radiating from the lower back and continuing down one leg? Is it worse when standing or sitting? If so, you may be suffering from sciatica.

At DMC Healthcare located in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Bryan Weddle and his staff offer state-of-the-art chiropractic care for all musculoskeletal needs. Whether the issue is sciatica, a herniated disk, or pain in the neck, shoulder, or knee, they provide comprehensive personalized treatment for injuries suffered during sports, an auto or work accident, or even during everyday activities.

Sciatica explained

The sciatic nerve branches off from the lower back through each buttock and down the leg. When the nerve is compressed by a herniated disk or an issue with the spine like a bone spur or spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spine), it can become inflamed and result in pain and sometimes numbness. Weakness in the legs can occur if the nerve is pinched. Typically, only one side of the body is affected.

Symptoms of sciatica

Lower back pain is common in sciatica, as is an often sharp, searing pain that travels down one leg through the thigh, calf, and even sometimes to the feet. Tingling and numbness can occur in the buttocks, legs, or feet, which may result in weakness and difficulty with standing and walking. Coughing or sneezing can cause pain or spasms.

Risk factors

A number of risk factors can increase a person's chance of sciatica. Age-related changes in the spine are the most common reason behind it. In addition, excess body weight may cause extra stress on the spine and play a role in spinal changes. Finally, prolonged sitting and/or a sedentary lifestyle makes sciatica more likely, while diabetes can increase the risk of nerve damage.

Diagnosing sciatica

In addition to a traditional medical exam, the doctor might ask the patient to perform movements like walking on their toes or heels, standing from a squatting position, and lifting each leg while laying on their back. This helps determine muscle strength and reflexes; if pain worsens during these activities, it helps indicate sciatica.

If symptoms don't improve on their own, additional imaging tests might be ordered, like an X-ray that could reveal a bone spur, an MRI that might indicate a herniated disk, a CT scan that shows images of the spine, or an electromyography (EMG) that can confirm nerve compression.

Treatment of sciatica

In most people, sciatica will resolve itself within a few weeks. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or aspirin, or muscle relaxants can help. Using heating pads and ice on the muscles may bring relief as well. Be as active as possible, as motion helps lessen inflammation. Stretching and physical therapy may also aid in recovery.

Other options may include electromyostimulation conducted on the area of the pain, which can help relax spasms. Chiropractic adjustments can alleviate the pressure on the nerve by working on the spinal vertebrae and discs, which are often the reason behind the sciatica. When necessary, cervical and lumbar disc decompression can be done as well.

If you're experiencing pain, numbness, or weakness down one leg and think it could be sciatica, call or click to book an appointment with Dr. Weddle today.

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