Sciatica is defined as pain or discomfort associated with the sciatic nerve which runs from the lower back, down the back of the legs to the feet. It most commonly occurs in adults aged 20 to 60 years. It is estimated that up to 40% of the New Zealand population will experience sciatica at some point in their lives. (www.southerncross.co.nz/group/medical-library/sciatica-symptoms-pain-relief-treatment)
Many people commonly have their back pain diagnosed as Sciatica, however that’s not always the full story. There are other factors at play that could be contributing.
Here are 9 possible reasons you have back pain:
Sciatica is technically not a diagnosis but a description for a grouping of symptoms. (http://lifebydesigncentre.com/sciatica-research-chatham-kent/)
Any condition that increases pressure on the lumbar nerves or directly to the sciatic nerve can cause debilitating pain.
Osteoarthritis can be a byproduct of ageing but also a side effect of injury and immobility.
As the cartilage between discs and joints becomes damaged, normal movement can become difficult and painful.
3. SOFT TISSUES
Strain and sprain injuries to the muscles and ligaments around the spine can be a common source of pain.
This type of pain can spread further into the muscles along the spine.
4. DISC DEGENERATION
The deterioration of intervertebral discs can occur with the normal wear and tear of aging or can be accelerated with abnormal forces placed on the spine.
While disc degeneration is not always a cause of back pain, a quarter of chronic low back pain is related to mechanical causes such as degenerative conditions. (https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/nhc-lbp-pathway-to-prioritisation.pdf)
5. HERNIATED DISK
If the spinal discs reach a point where the disc ruptures, increased pressure may be placed directly on the nerve roots, including the sciatic nerve, or the walls of the disc can become irritated…both causing back pain and/or sciatica.
It’s common to assume that pain in the back also means there’s a physical problem in that area…research continues to say “not necessarily”. (www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mind-back-pain-201605049517)
Stress can affect our levels of back pain and improved management of stress can aid in the recovery process.
Believe it or not, puffing away on a cigarette can make your back hurt even more. (www.tbihealth.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Does-smoking-affect-rehab-outcomes.pdf)
Whether it is increased joint inflammation or altered blood supply, the chemicals found in cigarettes are increasing the chance you’ll suffer from back pain.
8. HYPERMOBILITY AND WEAKNESS
One of the most often missed culprits causing lower back pain is too much movement, especially in the lumbar spine. This is one of the reasons creating more movement in an already mobile lumbar spine could be detrimental.
Strengthening tissues around the spine with compound exercises such as deadlifts can be integral to the healing process.
Of course, let’s not forget there can be many other causes of sciatica and back pain.
The source of pain could be postural distortion, indigestion, a urinary tract infection or even a fracture.
WELL, IT’S COMPLICATED.
If you’ve ever wondered why some people will have success with one intervention while others with sciatica are still suffering…
The most likely scenario is because there’s likely a mixture of different possible factors at work.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Back pain is the most frequent and costly musculoskeletal complaint in Western societies, responsible for approximately 40% of missed work days.
So it makes sense we approach back pain from a different and multi-factorial perspective.
Here are some things to try…
THE SHORT LIST INCLUDES:
A. Strength Training, Conditioning and Proper Mobility / Stability
B. Dietary Improvements
C. Neuro-Structural Testing and Correction (Corrective Chiropractic)
D. Stress Management
We would love to hear which of these have you tried?
What worked for you?
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