Dr. Andrew J. Roy, D.C., founder of Advanced Wellness & Rehab, says the vast majority of their patients present with sciatic nerve pain. And no wonder – because the sciatic nerve is the longest and largest in the human body.
It’s comprised of five sets of paired nerve roots in the lumbar spine that runs from the back, under the buttocks and downward through the hip area and into each leg. Nerve roots are part of the body’s entire nervous system, capable of transmitting pain and sensation to other parts of the body. Sciatica or lumbar radiculopathy is the result of pressure on or compression of the sciatic nerve – causing pain, numbness and/or tingling along that pathway – from the lumbar spine downward.
There are six common spinal disorders that can trigger sciatica:
- A bulging or herniated disc
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Piriformis syndrome
- Spinal tumors
Understanding the common sciatica triggers
Bulging Discs: The discs in the spine act like shock absorbers between each of the bony vertebra. With age, it’s not uncommon for a disc to bulge or lose its shape and move into the spinal cord, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Herniated Discs: The consequences of a herniated disc are worse because the shell of the disc has ruptured, releasing the disc material that can press against and compress delicate nerve tissue. This disc material is also acidic and can cause additional nerve inflammation.
Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces within the spine, which can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine to the arms and legs – including the sciatic nerve. Spinal stenosis most often affects older adults, as it is a result of “wear and tear.” The pain is frequently brought on by activities such as standing or walking and is relieved by sitting down.
Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is characterized by one vertebra slipping forward over an adjacent vertebra. When a vertebra is displaced, spinal nerve root compression occurs. A person can be born with spondylolisthesis or it can result from spinal degeneration, trauma or physical stress.
There is some overlap with these common sciatica triggers, says Dr. Roy.
Trauma: The external force of trauma, from events such as motor vehicle accidents, falls and sports injuries can result in direct nerve compression. Sometimes broken bone fragments can compress the nerves as well.
Piriformis syndrome: Piriformis syndrome is named for the piriformis muscle in the lower part of the spine, which connects to the thighbone and assists in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve runs beneath it. The muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve if it spasms, a condition that can be associated with repetitive stress, says Dr. Roy, such as among athletes, but can be difficult to diagnose.
Spinal tumors: Although rare, spinal tumors – either benign or malignant growths – can also trigger sciatica pain.
Spinal Rejuvenation Therapy counters sciatica triggers
Dr. Roy says Advanced Wellness & Rehab’s Spinal Rejuvenation Therapy program includes:
- State-of-the-art technology
- Specialized physical therapy that includes therapeutic exercises for postural strengthening and gentle stretching
- Spinal decompression
- Myokinesthetic therapy or MYK for short, a muscle-movement technique that corrects and balances the nervous system by addressing postural changes
- Vibration therapy or electrical stimulation
- Compressed ice therapy
- Cold laser therapy
Because sciatica triggers are what Advanced Wellness & Rehab specializes in and treats most often, Dr. Roy urges people to take advantage of a free consultation before the condition progresses and becomes more problematic.