Sciatica is the pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve. The nerve initially comes out of the low back and then branches off to go down both legs all the way to the feet. We all have probably experienced the sharp, searing pain of Sciatica, especially the first time we step out of bed in the morning or when we sit for too long. The key to getting rid of Sciatica is to remove stress off the nerve, release the gluteal muscles, and realign the joints of the low back and pelvis.
The symptoms of sciatic nerve pain are many and can be debilitating, most commonly appearing as sharp pain in the buttocks, pain down the back of the leg to the foot, low back pain, numbness down the leg to the foot, pain when stepping down on the involved leg, and pain when rolling over in bed. If the sciatic nerve is irritated enough, it can actually affect the muscles all the way down the leg and cause weakness.
What is actually happening to cause this inflammation and compression of the sciatic nerve? The main muscle that is involved is the piriformis muscle. This muscle goes from the sacrum to the lateral hip or femur bone, it stretches right across and is on top of the sciatic nerve. This condition is most common in the population of those 40-60 years old, and it seems to affect women more than men.
There are many potential causes of Sciatica, these are the most common: fall or direct injury to the buttocks, prolonged sitting, excessive exercise, climbing stairs, catching oneself from falling, sitting on a wallet. The more the piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve get irritated, the more likely full-blown Sciatica will evolve.
One important thing to realize says Dr. Hamel is that a sciatic nerve pain can mimic a lumbar disc bulge or herniation, and it is important to know the difference. A lumbar disc lesion or extrusion usually will be very painful in the low back, cause radiating pain into the buttocks, and sometimes down the leg; it can also cause numbness in the front or back of the thigh. An MRI can show if there is a disc protrusion going on and can decipher the difference between this and Sciatica. Sciatica is easier to treat, says Dr. Hamel, although both a lumbar disc lesion and sciatic nerve pain can be very severe and debilitating.
The question most commonly asked by his patients is: “Dr. Hamel, so how do I get rid of Sciatica,” or what can I do to fix this? Being a chiropractic doctor, Dr. Hamel focuses on relieving pressure and stress around the sciatic nerve. He has three categories of treatment, 1. Realignment process to release pressure in the low back and pelvis, 2. corrective spinal exercises, and 3. natural supplements to help reduce pain and inflammation as a patient is going through therapy.
1. Realignment – When the spine and pelvis are misaligned it creates significant stress and pressure in the low back, pelvic joints, gluteal muscles and nerves. The “popping” sound from a chiropractic adjustment is the pressure being released from the lumbar joints, Ilium and sacrum from the pelvis. There is no other therapy that can release pressure from a joint as well as chiropractic therapy, and chiropractors have been doing this for over 100 years.
2. Corrective Exercises – Often times with any type of back pain, neck pain, Sciatica or shoulder pain, there are imbalances in the muscles and joints that have been created over time; these exercises help correct those. These postural exercises help to stabilize joints. In this case they help to balance out the hip flexors and gluteal muscles which helps support the stability of the pelvic joints and the lumbar spine. The four exercises Dr. Hamel recommends are: a) Foam roller for the gluteal muscle and piriformis – 10 rolls over the distance of the gluteal muscles, back and forth; b) Hip flexor stretch – hold 30 seconds and do both legs; c) Piriformis stretch – 30 second hold X 2; d) Flossing the sciatic nerve which involves extending the affected side leg out, and at the same time extending the head backwards, 2 sets of 10.
3. Nutrition and whole food supplements to decrease pain, decrease inflammation and speed up the healing process. At his Kingwood office, Dr. Hamel uses mostly supplements from Standard Process and Medi-Herb. Whole food supplements that help support the body’s ability to heal are Glucosamine Sulphate, Turmeric, Fish Oil, Ligaplex, Collagen, Magnesium, and a couple of CBD products.
Dr. Hamel has been a practicing chiropractor and nutritionist in the Kingwood, Texas area for over 20 years. For treatment of Sciatica and other neck and back pain ailments, Dr. Hamel finds his treatment philosophy of alignment, corrective exercises, and nutrition gets patient’s better quicker. “These days people are just tired of pain. They don’t even want it for a day, let alone for a month. Patients are looking for any extra they can do to help speed up their healing and therapy outcomes,” says Dr. Hamel.
The more a patient participates in getting fixed or healing faster, that is the key that makes a big difference. There is no quick fix, pain shot, medicine or other therapy that fixes Sciatica quickly, so be careful before diving into one of those scams. Therapy, whether it be massage, acupuncture, physical therapy or chiropractic, can make a big difference in patient outcomes for Sciatica; but if the patient is not making their appointments and doing their exercises, it can be a long road ahead.