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Leg Pain aka Sciatica

If you have ever had leg pain then you know how awful it can be. Commonly people refer to this as Sciatica, but there are many nerves in the leg and pelvis that can cause leg pain and it may not be coming from the sciatic nerve, but who cares – you have leg pain?

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So What is True Sciatica?

Sciatica is caused by problems with your lower lumbar spine, it is most commonly caused by a bulging disc that can press against the sciatic nerve. Degeneration of the disc can also release inflammatory proteins that can irritate the nerve. The joints in the low back can also cause irritation to the sciatic nerve, sometimes they will stiffen to the point that they stop the nerve exiting from the spine as it should…and causes  symptoms.

What Can I Do?

There are exercises that you can do at home which can help to control and reduce your sciatic pain. In most cases gentle exercise is better for relieving leg pain than ‘bed rest’. This is because without regular movement the spinal joints and back muscles will become less active and weaken over time.

Movement also helps the discs in your spine by encouraging the exchange of fluid and nutrients keeping them healthy and preventing them putting pressure on your sciatic nerve. It is important to do core muscle exercises to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles which will provide more support for the back. In addition specific stretching exercises for the muscles that cause pain when they are tight will help to reduce your pain!

One example of a good exercise  is a hamstring stretch. This targets the muscles in the back of the thigh as when these are too tight they can increase the stress on the low back and make your leg pain worse. Watch the video below to find the safe and best way to perform a hamstring stretch:

www.spine-health.com – video

Use ice therapy! As leg pain is an irritation of the nerve sometimes caused by inflammation the best non-medical therapy to use is ice. Applying ice to your low back for 15 minutes at 2 hour intervals will help to reduce the inflammation around the nerve and ease the pain or other symptoms which travel down the leg.

A common assumption is to label everything as “sciatica” but a similar type of leg pain and numbness can be caused by a sprain or strain of the sacroiliac joint.  These joints are at either side of your pelvis/hip and if you strain this joint you can get pain into your groin and/or down your leg. These joints are the shock absorbers of the spine and they distribute the weight to the spine, they are commonly injured through lifting something heavy. How severely you have sprained the joint is determined by how far down your leg the pain goes. For instance someone with pain to the knee will recover quicker than someone with pain to the foot.

How Can Chiropractic Help?

At our Castle Lane and Fordingbridge Chiropractic clinics we commonly see patients with leg pain and treat them with much success! First of all we need do an indepth examination to determine why you have leg pain or numbness and ascertain what part of the body or nerve is affected. Knowing this helps us to advise you on what you can do to help yourself at home as well. Chiropractic adjustments focus on getting the spine to move correctly in a safe, gentle, non-painful way. Re-aligning the spinal joints will take the pressure off of the nerve and aid in your recovery; in addition we work around the muscles and soft tissues around the area of injury. This is because muscle spasms can be very painful and working on them helps the muscles to relax allowing you to move better. It will make it easier for you to do simple every day activities like bending forward to put on your socks and shoes.

Does Chiropractic Work?

There have been studies performed that report the benefits of spinal manipulation performed by Chiropractors. The Scientific Commission of the CCGPP says that there is strong evidence to support spinal manipulation for increasing function and reducing symptoms of low back pain as well as evidence supporting spinal manipulation helping radiating low back an leg pain.

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) recommends treating low back pain with spinal manipulation in the first four weeks of symptoms, with or without non-prescription painkillers. With the addition of gentle exercise such as walking or swimming followed by specific exercises after two weeks.2.

The AHCPR also stress the importance of continuing normal daily activities as soon as possible and found that more than four days of bed rest to be counterproductive.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of leg pain, weakness, tingling or numbness the best thing to do is speak to us and book in for a free assessment to see what the cause is. Remember the AHCPR advise you to start treatment within 4 weeks if possible to get the quickest recovery. If you have had it for years, and some of our patients have, it is never too late to obtain relief!

Just give us a call Castle Lane Clinic on 01202 300320 or Fordingbridge Chiropractic Clinic on 01425 652951 to book an appointment.

Resources

1. Globe G, Morris C, Whalen W et al. Chiropractic Management of Low Back Disorders: Report from a Consensus Process. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics November/December 2008: 651-658.

2. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G et al (1994) Acute low back problems in adults. Clinical practice guideline No. 14. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642, Rockville, MD; Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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