Back pain is a very common complaint that can occur in people of any age. There are many different types of back pain and individual cases must be thoroughly investigated by a chiropractor to determine the cause and a suitable course of treatment.
In this guide, we’ve put together some information to help those suffering from sciatica and low back pain.
It should be noted that although these conditions are often conflated, low back pain does not always signal a case of sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
People who suffer from sciatica often report that it is much more unpleasant than other kinds of low back pain they have experienced before.
This is because sciatica pain is uniquely sharp and excruciating, starting in the low back and shooting down the buttocks and legs.
The shooting leg pain that patients experience is caused by the compression of certain nerves that exit the spine.
These nerves are extremely sensitive to pressure and can cause such pain that the patient’s daily life is significantly impacted.
Why Does Sciatica Occur and How Can It Be Treated?
Sciatica is often caused by an injury to the spinal discs or the development of bone spurs. The pain associated with the condition can only be alleviated if the inflammation that is causing pressure on the nerve is reduced.
One of the best ways to tackle inflammation and get the spinal joints moving again is through chiropractic adjustment.
A chiropractor can also offer advice for patients who need rehabilitation for sciatica, helping them to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and reduce the likelihood of the condition flaring up again.
The most common causes of low back pain…
It is thought that more than nine in ten of us suffer from low back pain at some point in our lives. This is a very significant number that shows how easy it is to injure the complex structures that make up that part of the body.
Low back pain usually flares up when certain joints of the spine are subject to greater pressure than usual. Such an injury could happen in a moment, such as when lifting a heavy box incorrectly, or could happen over a long period of time due to problems such as excessive sitting or having poor posture.
Many of us have heard the latest theory that sitting is the new smoking. In part, this is because sitting for long periods of time at an office desk (something many of us do on a daily basis) can weaken the muscles that support the spine and increase the risk of back pain. It can also contribute to a person’s risk of developing a whole host of life-limiting health conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing back pain and the health issues associated with sitting. Firstly, standing up and taking a quick walk around the office every thirty minutes or so can help to ensure that the back muscles keep moving and stay strong. Positioning your chair correctly so that there is adequate lumbar support is also very important. Finally, a chiropractor can help to adjust the spine to minimise any back pain and prevent serious issues from arising in the future.
How to fix low back pain
If you struggle to enjoy the full range of motion in your lower back, it is imperative that you try to get moving again. In other words, if you cannot bend forward, backwards and to the side, or turn side to side, you may have an issue that needs to be dealt with.
Leaving the problem to fester will only allow it to get worse in the long term as it will further weaken the muscles in your back and increase the risk of more serious injury.
A great way to get moving again is through chiropractic adjustment. A chiropractor will be able to treat the joints in your back suffering from restricted movement, gently encouraging them to move again and improving the range of motion in a way that reduces pain.
They will also be able to recommend stretches that the patient can do at home to ensure that any progress is maintained and the back continues to be strengthened.
The Low Back: Your Foundational Core
Your core refers to the group of muscles that help your lower back and abdomen remain stable. This includes your abdominal muscles and the deep muscles that envelop the spine and keep you standing straight.
On top of this, your core muscles help to coordinate the movement of the legs, arms, and spine, something which explains why athletes from a range of disciplines tend to have very strong core muscles.
In a strong and healthy individual, the core muscles and lower back should work together in a way that balances both flexibility and strength. If you lack either of these attributes, then you may very well start to experience low back pain.
How To Improve Your Core
If you are experiencing low pain, it is probably a very good idea to start strengthening your core muscles to improve your posture, boost your endurance, and minimise the pressure put on your lower back.
Generally speaking, working on your core can help to reduce the likelihood of developing back pain and improve your balance, improving your quality of life and making everyday activities that little bit easier.
If you have never worked on your core before, you are not alone. Only dedicated athletes and gym-goers tend to think about how to strengthen specific muscle groups.
Fortunately, however, many chiropractors can offer valuable advice about how to start improving core strength through simple exercises that do not require any specialist equipment.
They will take into account your age, ability and current fitness level to come up with an easy-to-follow regime for strengthening your muscles and protecting your back.
One of the most common core exercises is the plank. This involves supporting the weight of your body on your toes and forearms whilst holding your body straight from your ankles to your shoulders.
It is much harder than it sounds as it requires many muscle groups to work together at once.
Lower Back Sciatic Nerve Anatomy
Interestingly, the sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the whole of the human body, starting in the lower spine, passing through the buttock, and passing all the way down the leg through to the foot. It is also one of the thickest nerves of the body, measuring around 2cm in diameter at its thickest portion. When the sciatic nerve hits the knee, it splits into two branches known as the tibial nerve and the common peroneal nerve.
In terms of its function, the sciatic nerve is very important for a number of reasons. Indeed, the motor functions involved with the nerve include:
– Pointing the toes downwards
– Pointing the toes upwards
– Closing the thighs together
– moving the legs inwards
– Bending the knee
– Pointing the foot upward
– Pointing the foot downward
When the sciatic nerve is damaged, people tend to experience weakness in the legs and a reduced ability to complete the aforementioned motions.
Other important structures in the lower back include:
Vertebrae: These help you to bear the weight of your body and protect certain nervous tissues such as the spinal cord.
Facet joints: Vertebrae in the lower back are connected with facet joints that offer stability and help the spine to move in different directions. They are lined with special cartilage that allows for easy, uninterrupted movement.
Discs: There are five discs located between vertebrae that absorb shocks and offer cushioning. Disc injuries can be very painful and need special treatment.