Sciatica Pain Relief?
Question: I have pain in lower back, butt, and leg. Is this sciatica? What sciatica treatment do you recommend for pain relief?
Dr. Dan: First, you need to confirm the pain is indeed resulting from sciatica. If you’re suffering from sciatica symptoms, I strongly encourage you to find an osteopath or physician who specializes in manual medicine. That individual must look at you from a holistic, whole-person perspective and evaluate whether or not this pain is indeed coming from a disc or nerve problem, which will require more aggressive treatment.
However, it is very possible the pain you’re experiencing is not sciatica and is resulting from very common causes that can be fixed without drugs or surgery. Let me explain.
What is sciatica?
The word “sciatica” has unfortunately become an umbrella term for any pain that starts in the low back and radiates down the legs. Sciatica pain distinctly starts in the low back, extends past the buttocks, down the leg, and past the knee. The past the knee part is important!
Sciatica is caused by a disc problem or nerve problem, where the sciatic nerve is being pinched. It is possible to manage this type of pain without medication and surgery, but a physician does need to be involved in your care. Available sciatica treatments include manual manipulation or stretches, anti-inflammatories, or herbal remedies and acupuncture.
But if you have pain that is not radiating past the knee, what can you do?
Possible causes of lower back pain
There are many different structures in the body other than discs and pinched nerves that can cause pain, although nerves are typically somehow involved. If you are experiencing pain in the lower back that does not extend into your foot or past your knee, it’s likely the joints in your back are being constricted. Those joints are either not moving freely enough, straining the muscles as they fight to maintain stability, or they are actually moving too much. As joints become hypermobile, your muscles also strain to keep them stable. This typically results in muscle pain.
Furthermore, the area where your muscle attaches to your bone is called a tendon. As your muscles work harder and pull harder to stabilize your joints, they begin to pull and stretch your tendons. This leads to tendinitis or tendinosis, which is another possible cause of lower back pain.
Treatments for lower back pain
Manual medicine, osteopathic manipulation, chiropractic adjustments, and massage therapy can all be effective in treating lower back pain. To treat inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications like Motrin, Advil, and Naprosyn can be effective in treating inflammation. Be aware that taking anti-inflammatories can inhibit your body from healing itself. There are homeopathic alternatives. Herbal remedies like turmeric can also assist in reducing inflammation.
Remember that we have a very “pro-inflammatory” diet in America. If you eat a lot of gluten, sugar, and dairy, you may be creating inappropriate and unnecessary inflammation in your body. In some cases, changing your diet can decrease your overall state of inflammation and thus reduce your level of lower back pain.
Treatments like platelet rich plasma (PRP) and prolotherapy can be exceptionally effective at rebuilding stability in your joints and creating mobility, allowing your muscles to strain less and hurt less.
Acupuncture for lower back pain
Acupuncture is another option for treating lower back pain. Acupuncture needles are placed at specific sites on your body. According to Chinese thinking, acupuncture needles dissipate energy blockages and allow the free low of life force energy, or Qi. This allows your body to naturally reduce pain and inflammation. Modern science tells us acupuncture needles increase the body’s natural painkillers, or endorphins. It is this increase in endorphins which leads to drug-free pain relief. Dry needling or trigger point treatments can also work to deactivate the pain generators inside the muscles.
Remember, the first thing you need to do is confirm the pain you’re experiencing is indeed resulting from sciatica.
Thank you for reading!
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Dr. Dan Williams is an internationally trained doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.) and a certified acupuncture practitioner. Dr. Dan is based out of Indianapolis. You can find more information by visiting drdanielwilliams.com.
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