What is Sciatica and how is it caused?
Sciatica is a condition in which the sciatic nerve branches off from the lumbar vertebrae, travels behind the hip and down under the hamstring to the back of the knee, and then branches off again to the outside of the ankle and the deeper internal part of the foot.
Sciatica can cause pain, pressure, or numbness anywhere along the path of the sciatic nerve. Typically, it is caused by nerve root pressure in the spine or pressure from tight muscles inside the hip.
When the sciatic nerve, which is quite large, receives external pressure, you will experience that as numbness, weakness, or pain that does not feel completely isolated to one area but can have many different characteristics. The most common of these is muscle tension, pain, and a lack of flexibility.
Traditional treatments for Sciatica
Physical Therapy or Chiropractic
When people are told they have sciatica, they are usually told to do physical therapy or see a chiropractor. Usually, decompression therapy is one of the first attempts, where the person is put into mechanical traction to create more space between the vertebrae so that hopefully there can be an elimination of inflammation and fresh blood flow getting into those areas, as well as creating a window where nerve pressure is reduced.
But in many cases, this is only a short-term fix, because as soon as the traction is taken away and gravity starts to pull on the body again, the person's support pattern for how they stand and move will push them right back into the positions, movements, and imbalances that caused the disc problems in the first place.
Stretching and Exercising
Other treatments include stretching and other movement-based protocols, as well as exercising the muscles of the back, obliques, and abdominals, and sometimes the muscles of the hips and thighs. But when a person has a severe sciatica flare-up, it can be painful to try to move and do these exercises. They may also feel very hesitant and unable to do so.
Where Traditional Treatments Fall Short
Frequently, a person will undergo an MRI or see an X-ray of their spine when they are trying to figure out their sciatica. They will get very distressed to hear that there may be degeneration in their lumbar discs or issues with herniations in the discs that can be causing the sciatic nerve pressure.
However, one must keep in mind that the damage to the disks or the loss of space in the disks is mostly a symptom of too much pressure over time. Where does this pressure come from? It comes from the nervous system, either letting the proper muscles do the job of supporting you or forcing the improper muscles to do too much work and create improper loading through the spine as you move.
In other words, people get discouraged and very focused on any damaged structures they see, and they view those as the source of the problem when, in fact, whatever is not working properly—a hamstring, for example, if the hamstring does not do its job, then the back is forced to compensate for the hamstring. This leads, over time, to damage in the back when the actual source of the issue is in the hamstring.
Avoid Sciatica Surgery with Neurological Soft Tissue Therapy
At Evo Performance Rehab, we can help figure out where these neuromuscular problems come from, whether they are sciatic nerve pain or any damage in the lumbar spine, or even numbness and tingling in the toes and feet.
We can find these origins and work to solve the problem from where it actually started, which creates not only a faster alleviation of pain but a true opportunity for healing the actual problem as well as increasing the stability and long-term success for the client.
When sciatica is bad and has been going on for a long time, people can become desperate to get rid of the pain. So they will jump at the recommendation of surgery. Anytime surgery is suggested, you need to be extremely cautious, get second and third opinions, and talk to other practitioners about alternative therapies.
The locating and retraining method used in the neurological soft tissue therapy program at Evo Performance Rehab has helped a lot of people with sciatic nerve pain. People have come in with terrible sciatic pain that was caused by a problem with a disc in their low back, but the real problem with their movement and posture was in their lower legs and feet.
Other issues, such as past surgeries or other injuries that create patterns of using the body out of position or using the wrong muscles to do the job, will create these damages over time. It is important to truly find the origin of the issue and work to create healing in the body for the best outcome. One should first look at the nervous system and try to fix things without surgery before putting the body through radical stress like back surgery.
Many of my clients have come to me after having back surgeries that didn't help them in the long run. This is because if the cause of the problem isn't fixed, the surgery can temporarily relieve symptoms, but in the long run, it creates more problems and more symptoms above and below the surgical site and elsewhere as a result of the surgery and recovery process.
At Evo Performance Rehab, we try to help each person's amazing ability to heal and be active by directing their nervous system and retraining the right work and distribution of forces throughout the body.
This allows older people to move like they're young again and allows those with severe sciatic pain to eliminate it completely and quickly and become equipped to keep it away for the long term.