The sciatic nerve is a significant nerve with the largest diameter in the body. It is comprised of 3 major nerve roots (Lumbar 4, Lumbar 5, Sacral 1) from the lower back that all come together in your pelvis and form the sciatic nerve. It extends from the lower end of the spinal cord and down the backs of the legs, dividing above the knee joint. This nerve connects the nervous system to the skin and muscles of the legs and feet. As with any nerve, the sciatic nerve can get compressed, which can have many negative effects.
If you’ve ever sat in a certain position for a long period of time and your foot or leg fell asleep, you’ve experienced a temporarily compressed nerve. However, a pinched nerve that persists can be a bothersome and chronic condition. Physicians use the term radiculopathy to describe persistent symptoms of a pinched or compressed nerve, such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.
If one of the nerves that forms the sciatic nerve is pinched, referred to as sciatica, it can cause chronic pain and radiculopathy that can affect your quality of life and ability to exercise and move about. Here is how you can start treating sciatica today:
Determine The Root Cause
Determining the root cause of sciatica is the first step. Sciatica is a symptom, not a stand-alone condition. A pinched nerve is often caused by something else that needs to be treated separately to relieve the symptoms. In most cases, the root cause of sciatica pain is a herniated disc in the lumbar spine, where the disc may be compressing one or 2 of the nerves forming the sciatic nerve in such a way that it causes the nerves in your legs to trigger a pain response.
A Holistic Approach Is Best
Dr. Melamed does not support opioid-based treatments and will suggest a holistic approach that may include acupuncture sessions, chiropractic adjustments, stretching exercises, physical therapy, yoga, Pilates, inversion tables, and other integrative medicine techniques. Studies have shown that physical therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care have better therapeutic outcomes than traditional pain management.
Quit Smoking: It’s a Risk Factor
Smoking increases the risk for a multitude of diseases and chronic conditions. Smoking is associated with accelerated disc degeneration and increased pain perception amongst people who go through treatment. Those who smoke have a higher risk factor for spine and orthopedic problems than those who do not. Studies have shown that smoking is a risk factor for lumbar radicular pain and sciatica. In addition, smoking severely deters the body’s own ability to heal itself. Quitting can reduce the excess risk.
Build a Strong Back
Exercising regularly can do a lot more for your back pain than you may think. It’s essential to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, especially if you are exercising, to increase flexibility and range of motion as you build back strength. Correct your posture when you are standing or sitting and make sure to stand up every 30 minutes to an hour if you sit a lot. It is best to have a stand up desk. Make sure your mattress and pillows aren’t too soft and use support pillows while you sleep to take the pressure off of your spine and to make sure your neck and lower back are in neutral position.
Lifestyle changes are the best way to reduce inflammation in the body. Eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly is a great start, but it shouldn’t end there. The environments we live and work in have a huge impact on our physical health. Mental stress gets translated into the body in the form of higher cortisol levels, increased blood pressure, decreased immunity, and so much more.
Removing yourself from stressful environments is the best thing you can do for your overall health, but that may not always be possible. Seeing a therapist regularly is amazing for your mental health, and that will translate into better physical health. Also please highly consider meditation. The are many apps that can support meditation such as tenpercent.com
We Can Help
At The Spine Pro, we are dedicated to providing you with the highest level of care. Dr. Melamed takes a proactive, patient-centered perspective with a holistic approach based on integrative medicine. We can help you return to feeling like yourself again! Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.