Pinched Nerves and Sciatica

Pinched nerve is a term used when referring to one of the nerves that runs between two vertebrae is being compressed. When this happens it can cause numbness, tingling, burning and soreness along the path of the nerve.

There are many causes of pinched nerves. A common one is when there is reduction or closure of the nerve canal between two vertebrae. This can be due to slips and falls or other high impact accidents. While a normal canal has enough room for a nerve to pass through, bone spurs or degenerative discs can cause it to be narrowed: a condition also known as spinal canal stenosis. It should not be confused with a herniated or bulging disc, which can also put pressure on the nerve.

Trauma is another cause of pinched nerves. Due to the trauma, vertebral joints inflame, causing the muscles in the area to tighten. This places further stress around the vertebrae, putting pressure around the nerve and producing symptoms of nerve compression.  Compression of the nerves in the low back can cause problems down the back of the legs or even to the toes.

When treating a pinched nerve, the goal is to reduce the compression of the vertebrae. This is accomplished by traction and realignment therapeutic procedures that help muscles loosen and lessen the pain, minimizing any inflammation. With pinched nerves, it is important to have a Doctor of Chiropractic determine the exact cause of your pinched nerve to recommend a specific course of treatment.

Sciatica is a nerve pain that starts in the low back and passes through the buttocks into one or both legs. The intensity and frequency of this type of pain varies: minimal, moderate, severe along with occasional, intermittent or constant.

The pain can be described as electric shock like, dull, achy, sharp, tooth-ache like or pins and needles. Sciatica may have other symptoms including burning, numbness or tingling sensation. It has also been called radiating or referred pain, neuralgia or neuropathy. One misconception is that sciatica is a disorder itself, however it is a symptom of a disorder.

The Cause of Sciatica: Nerve Compression

Generally, nerve compression is the cuase of sciatica. Conditions that can cause sciatic nerve pain include; herniated or bulging discs, lumbar spin subluxations or misaligned vertebral bodies, pregnancy and childbirth, tumors and non-spinal conditions like constipation, diabetes or something like sitting on a wallet in the back pocket.

Piriformis Syndrome is another common cause of sciatica. The piriformis muscle is in the pelvic area, connecting the sacrum and hipbone. It’s purpose is to help with hip rotation. The sciatic nerve then runs underneath the piriformis muscle.  If the pirifomis muscle spasms or tightens it can compress the sciatic nerve. Situations that can result in piriformis spasm include slips and fall, hip arthritis or uneven leg lengths.

Compression of the sciatic nerve can produce sensory or loss of feeling, paralysis of a muscle group (monoplegia) or the limb and even insomnia.

Proper Diagnosis

The first step in treating sciatica is for a Doctor of Chiropractic to determine what disorder is causing the sciatica. This involves a review of the patient’s history, a physical and neurological exam. Further testing such as x-ray, MRI, CT scan or electro diagnostic test (nerve conduction velocity, electromyography) may be warranted.  This testing not only helps to determine the cause of the sciatic, but it assists in detecting any contraindications for spinal adjustments.