“Sciatica” is a term used to describe pain which travels from the lower back down into the leg. It refers to the large nerve that is about the size of your thumb that is located in your hamstring muscle. A quick anatomy lesson is in order for you to understand what your doctor might tell you about your lower back if you have this condition.
The vertebrae in the lower back are called the “Lumbars”, and there are five of them. They are numbered one through five from the top and moving down.
In between each lumbar vertebra are discs and the discs are named according to the lumbar vertebra above and below. Think about it like a sandwich; the vertebra are the bread and the disc is the jelly.
Also the lumbar vertebra sit on top of what is called the “sacrum”. It’s a giant triangular bone that is wedged in between your pelvic bones.
The disc between the sacrum and the fifth lumbar vertebra is called “L5/S1” in doctor lingo and this is the most common disc to have problems in because it gets all the pressure of the lower back and the nerve that is affected by problems with this disc runs down through the hamstring muscle and you have Sciatica.
There are two other nerves from the lower back that are less commonly associated with Sciatica but can still happen. The next disc up the spine would be the “L4/L5” disc and this nerve runs along the outside of your thigh.
The other disc that sometimes has trouble is the “L3/L4” and the nerve here runs down the front of your thigh into your quadriceps muscle. Now discs are like jelly donuts. They have a soft inside and a tougher outside. And if this jelly squishes out of the center, it puts pressure on the nerve and causes the pain. Ok, anatomy lesson over.
What causes the disc to get injured is usually a lifting and twisting type motion like picking up that 80 pound bag of cement mix and throwing it to the side with a twist of your body.
It can also happen in car accidents while you are seated because your spine is loaded with pressure and then and maybe you were digging through your purse and twisted to the side at a stop light and boom!, you got hit.
The good news with this kind of problem is that the sciatica from a disc will only affect one leg or the other although it sometimes can affect both legs but these cases are more complicated and due to what is called “stenosis” and means the spinal cord itself is being compressed inside the spinal column. Not good.
In the non surgical treatment of disc problems you also have to know is the disc bulge “medial” or “lateral” to the nerve root? This is where a doctor who is knowledgeable about Applied Kinesiology will be able to test you and determine which way your disc has bulged or herniated.
It is important to know because you have to know which way to bend the spine and legs as you give the treatment on the adjusting table. The table that is by far the best one to use to treat sciatica and bulging and herniated discs is the Cox flexion distraction table. It is a low force technique that has saved many a patient from having to go to surgery.
Of course there are times when surgery is needed and these would be if the patient had back pain and leg pain (sciatica) originally but now the back pain has gone away and only the sciatica remains. This indicates that perhaps the disc that was herniated has broken off and reduces the pressure on the lower back but the fragment is now floating around in the same space as the nerve causing the sciatica.
Another indication for surgery would be that the patient is losing control over bladder and bowel function. They can’t have a bowel movement or they can’t hold their bladder urine.
I feel very lucky and blessed to have studied directly under Dr. Cox at his office in Fort Wayne, Indiana and learned this technique directly from him before I even graduated from Chiropractic school.
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Denver Chiropractor Robert Ebeling DC, PC of
A-Just-A-Ble Chiropractic Center
1380 S Santa Fe Dr #103
Denver, CO 80223