When it comes to lower back pain, there a couple of “buzz words” that you often hear in connection (I hesitate to use the expression “buzz words” because it sounds sort of dismissive). Sciatica is definitely one of those words. It feels like one of those words you might hear in a movie like Grumpy Old Men - “I got a pinched sciatica that’d make your lumbago look like eye strain,” says Jack Lemon to Walter Matthau. It’s a great line, but guess what? it’s not very medically accurate. I know, surprise, surprise, Hollywood gets it wrong, but in this case it’s important to make it clear what exactly sciatica is so you can figure out what’s causing your back, leg or hip pain.
So back to the quote, let’s take it apart a little. First, you can’t pinch your sciatica. Sciatica isn’t a thing - it’s a set of symptoms. Basically, that means that you can’t “have” sciatica, but you can display sciatica symptoms. Sciatica is really a word used to describe a set of symptoms such as:
- lower back pain
- leg pain
- burning sensation
- loss of sensation
- muscle weakness
The quote also mentions “lumbago” which is another broad term that essentially just means lower back pain, so in fact, that “pinched sciatica” could also have had lumbago as one of its symptoms!
Now that we know what sciatica really is, we can move on. If you experience some of the symptoms that fall under sciatica, it’s commonly associated with spinal disc related problems like herniation (also called prolapse) or bulges. The spinal discs that separate the vertebrae in the lower back tend to weaken with age and, when out of place, can press on the nerve roots as they exit the spinal canal. This compression leads to inflammation, irritation and potentially significant pain. In severe cases, loss of sensation and muscle wasting can occur. Basically, sciatica is pretty serious and requires a long term approach because discs have very little blood supply with which to heal.
For problems like sciatica, Living Well Medical in NYC focuses on the non-surgical side of care; spinal decompression, chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, massage therapy, Active Release Technique and a number of other treatments are available at our office, and by combining them, getting the right kind of help for chronic back pain is within reach. We can help you stop the pain if you need help - call today at 212-645-8151.
- Dr. Shoshany, NYC Chiropractor