Low Back – Sciatica Pain and Acupuncture Orlando
Sciatica is pain in the lower back or hip that radiates down into the buttock and back of the leg along the sciatic nerve, and can radiate to the foot. This pain is the result of a pinched or inflamed sciatic nerve and can occur following an injury, muscular strain or herniated (“slipped”) vertebral disc that presses on the nerve. The good thing is that sciatica usually goes away on its own within a few weeks if it is a more acute flare up, sometimes if chronic can last for several months.
The pain of sciatica can feel different for each person, it can manifest as a cramp in the leg, may worsen when you sit, sneeze or cough, and may show up as numbness, burning, tingling, an electrical shock or as “pins-and-needles” along the side of leg, back of leg that can radiate all the way to the foot. Muscle weakness can also occur due to pain or pressure on the nerve. Loss of bowel or bladder control is a rare but a serious complication that requires emergency treatment.
Typically most people that suffer from sciatica recover in time without surgery.
The sciatic nerves are the longest nerves in the body, running from the lower spinal cord down the buttock and hip, and continuing down the back of each leg to the foot. Each carries nerve signals for motor control of muscles of the lower leg as well as sensation to the backs of the thighs, calves and feet.
Whatever compresses the sciatic nerve for prolonged periods of time can cause sciatica. Sometimes this is the result of herniation of a disc in the lower back. Age-related changes to the spine can cause deterioration to the shock-absorbing pads of cartilage that separate the bones (vertebrae) from each other. These pads create space between the bones, allowing a place for the nerves to travel as they leave the spinal cord. If the disc ruptures, the inner jelly like substance can seep out and push against the nerves. Degenerative arthritis can also cause a narrowing of the space between vertebrae (stenosis) or cause a vertebra to slip forward onto another. This can pinch the root of the sciatic nerve, causing similar symptoms.
Trauma from a car accident or to the spine can injure the sciatic nerve directly, as can muscular strains of the large lower back muscles and spasms of the piriformis muscle that runs directly over the nerve. As these muscles become tight or go into spasm, they can create a type of tension that irritates the nerve. Tumors of the spine, spinal cord, or the nerve itself are rare causes of chronic sciatic pain.
So in addition to getting older, having a job that requires constant twisting, heavy-lifting or driving can make one more prone to sciatica. The constant sitting that occurs as a result of a desk-job or driving long distances, being overly sedentary can also put excess pressure on the lower back and legs. Also, those with diabetes have an increased risk of sciatica due to the damage that occurs to peripheral nerves when blood sugars are abnormally high.
For most people, sciatica responds well to simple measures, including hot and cold packs, stretching exercises and the use of over-the-counter pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) like ibubrofen. In some instances, doctors will prescribe an NSAID along with a muscle relaxant to treat tension and muscle spasm. Narcotics may be given to deal with poorly controlled pain, although they can become addictive when prescribed for long periods of time. Chronic sciatic pain longer than 2-3 months, can be treated with narcotic pain patches which work by blocking pain messages to the brain or by enhancing the body’s own production of endorphins. These medications can have many side effects which include constipation, dry mouth, nausea, weight gain, bladder problems, blurred vision and dizziness.
Most conventional doctors recommend physical therapy with stretching exercises as soon as the pain begins to diminish. You can begin this rehab by taking mini walks even before starting physical therapy. Rehab can include exercises to help correct posture, improve flexibility, and strengthen lower back and leg muscles. Massage therapy, ultrasound, and other techniques are often included in a therapy session, which typically lasts one hour.
When conservative measures don’t alleviate pain within a few months, an epidural steroid injection or nerve block may be considered in addition to a steroid with the hope that it will suppress inflammation and help relieve pain. These types of procedures are still under investigation as to how effective they are. Some research has found that corticosteroids can provide short-term symptom relief; however, data doesn’t seem to confirm its long-term usefulness, and typically the injections just mask the pain reducing inflammation and once it wears off the pain will return. Due to the side effects steroids can have, the number of injections you can receive is limited, usually no more than three in one year.
If the problem is muscular related, specific stretches that can relax the piraformis muscle are frequently beneficial and can bring immediate relief. The best therapy is prevention. Maintain ideal weight, engage in regular physical activity several times a week, and avoid prolonged sitting as much as possible. Carrying a large wallet in the hip pocket of pants can sometimes cause or aggravate sciatica.
Natural Alternative Therapies that can be very effective in relieving sciatic and low back pain are Traditional Chines Medicine such as acupuncture, Tui-Na (Chinese massage), fire-cupping, herbal therapy, stress management, natural injection therapy to reduce inflammation and lifestyle changes. Yoga can help relieve pain and protect against recurring by helping to strengthen the back muscles. Promote flexibility and calm stress and balance the nervous system, all which can contribute to back pain.
If you suffer from low back pain, or sciatica call today for a complimentary consultation at Four Seasons Acupuncture Orlando. Servicing residents of Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, Longwood, Altamonte Springs.
110 N. Orlando Suite 3 Maitland, Florida 32751.