Many people have heard of Sciatica, especially if they have ever suffered that pain before. But people often don't know what sciatica is. When experiencing sciatica pain it's vital to know as much as you can about it, so that you will be better able to relieve the pain and prevent it from returning!
When discussing the topic of Sciatica, it's important to remember that it is actually a symptom of a more serious issue, and in order to successfully treat sciatica you need to target the cause of the pain.
There are 5 main causes of Sciatica, and because they are all related to the spine it is very important that we first know what the spine is and how it works. In our experience with treating Sciatica, the outcome of the treatments improves when the patient completely understands what is causing their problems. And it is important to know all about the spine because then you will be better prepared to treat it.
Here are some basic facts about the spine:
- The spine has several purposes, but the main one is to protect the Spinal Cord
- There are 24 bones in the spine called Vertebrae
- In between each of those vertebra is a disc. They have two basic functions: to act as shock absorbers for the spine, and to allow for each vertebra to move in six directions
- Exiting the spinal cord between each vertebra are nerves, that then travel throughout the body
- The nerves that exit your spine from your lower back join together to form the Sciatic Nerve
Now that we have covered some basic information about the spine, let's discuss the two most common causes of sciatica:
- The number one most common cause of Sciatica is the dreaded Herniated Disc in your lower back.
Try to imagine the discs in between your vertebra as a jelly donut; there is an outer portion made of a thick material, and an inner portion that contains a kind of jelly. This is similar to what the discs in your back are like. And sometimes, the jelly (called the Nucleus) can rip through the outer portion of the disc and push on the nerves of the spine.
This will very often cause Sciatic pain, such as pain that travels down the leg. As we said earlier, if you just treat the leg pain, the disc will not get better. You have to treat the Herniated Disc itself to relieve the problem for good.
- The second cause of Sciatica is the Bulging Disc, which is basically just a smaller version of the Herniated Disc.
We just discussed how a disc becomes herniated when the jelly (nucleus) of the disc pushes out of the vertebra and puts pressure on the nerve. But, sometimes the jelly pushes on the thick outer portion of the disc without tearing it and leaking out. This is considered a Bulging Disc and not a Herniated Disc, since the nucleus is not actually coming out of the disc. And similarly to a Herniated Disc, this bulge can push against the nerve and causes Sciatic pain.
At the Illinois Back Institute we strive to educate everyone as much as possible about their back pain and sciatica, because it is proven that the more people know about their problem the more likely they are to eliminate it!
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