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What is sciatica and how does it effect me?

Some Thoughts about Sciatica

A few really bad misconceptions that people have about sciatica and other low back symptoms is that: 1) it will go away on its own, 2) I can take a few pills and it will make me better. These are actually very common misconceptions that people have about most medical issues. In this article you will read how and why each of these mindsets are false when dealing with sciatica.

It will go away on its own, right?

Most people have a fear that when they go to a doctor they are going to get a serious diagnosis that they fear. In order to avoid that conversation or conflict, they tell themselves that it will go away on its own. It’s not just a fear or hope, it’s actually a belief that people have about how their body and health works in general. If I don’t have symptoms I’m good. If I do have symptoms then eventually they will go away because other symptoms I’ve had in the past have gone away. This is really the case if you’ve felt it before.

With sciatica, in most cases, the pain isn’t unbearable. It doesn’t hinder your everyday activities. You can still work, eat, and continue life as usual even with the pain, so why go and see a doctor and pay a bill if it goes away on it own, right? In my opinion, this way of thinking is indirectly why, according to the American Chiropractic Association, low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide and why it’s one of the most common reasons why people miss work.

Conditions like sciatica don’t just go away on their own. That’s because sciatic symptoms are caused by a direct pressure on a nerve in the lower back or buttocks region in every case and that pressure doesn’t always cause symptoms. Just because you don’t have any pain or sensations going down into the buttocks or legs doesn’t mean there is no compression on the nerves by the vertebral misalignment, disc herniation, disc bulge, and/or muscle irritation.

When you have a flare up with pain and/or symptoms from sciatica, in actuality, it’s an aggravation of an already damaged or problematic area. Aggravations can commonly include inflammation and swelling of the discs or soft tissue structures and that is what is causing the sensations. When that swelling and inflammation decreases, the pain goes away. At this time you feel better and think you’re healed but that is not the case. Usually it just comes back again and again.

The worst part about it is that it DOES get worse. The abnormal structure that is causing the sciatica can and will start to degenerate if its not properly corrected. Degeneration presents in the form of bones and joints becoming arthritic, nerves being permanently damaged, discs drying up, and joints becoming more and more stiff. Most of these situations can lead you to surgery.

Usually, if I take something over the counter and it goes away

Taking a medication for a structural issue is like putting a piece of black tape over your check engine light and not expecting your car to break down. When sciatica symptoms flare up, inflammation is likely one of the culprits. It creates pain and pressure within damaged structures. One of the common things I hear in practice is the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as: ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen. Studies show that these drugs help to reduce inflammation.  Although it helps to decrease the inflammation now, it’s only helping you with the by product of your real problem. The ibuprofen or other drug will act as the black tape and all you’re doing is covering up the warning sign. The problem remains and is tearing your body down the longer its there. Usually the problem will get worse.

It’s easier to just get it fixed.

My professional advice would be to not fall into this way of thinking. It’s usually cheaper and less time consuming when you see a chiropractor and treat the cause of the problem. Sciatica occurs due to a structural imbalance in the body. It’s usually a disc that is herniated due to abnormal structure in the lumbar spine or is damaged, vertebral misalignments that create pressure to the nerve roots, or a pelvic imbalance that can creates lumbar spine misalignments or tight or inflamed muscles that cause compression to the sciatic nerve. With those most common causes of sciatica now listed, go to a spinal specialist, which is your local chiropractor, and find out which is causing your sciatica. This information will better identify which treatment option would be best to treat your specific cause of sciatica.

Doing nothing or covering up the problem only makes things worse. The decisions we make today affect the future directions we take. Your health is too important to wish or hope things will be fine and go away on their own.