Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Alexander Jimenez examines why sciatica can be so painful.
Sciatica may be perceived as the worst form of nerve malady, but that’s more reputation than reality.
Nerve pain is one of the most extreme forms of pain. It elicits imagery of searing heat, electric shock, and lightning bolt -like shooting sensations. And, the most dreaded kind of spinal nerve damage is arguably the tell tale low back and leg pain of sciatica.
A question patients frequently ask is, “ Why is sciatica so distressing?” That’s not the case, although they often consider there’s something exceptional about sciatica versus other kinds of spinal nerve malady.
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Myth-busting Sciatica Pain
Many assume sciatic nerve compression delivers more pain than other pinched nerves through the body because sciatica requires the sciatic nerve, which can be the longest and largest nerve within the body. But in 99 percent of sciatica cases, it’s not the sciatic nerve that’s compressed—it’s the nerve roots in the lumbar spine (low back) that join as they leave the spinal column and form the sciatic nerve.
When most folks refer to sciatica, they describe pain that shoots down the leg after the path of the sciatic nerve, but it’s actually one or two nerve roots compromised (commonly, the L4 or L5 nerve root). Doctors ascertain the exact nerve roots which are compressed by the positioning of the pain, like if the pain goes down to the side of the foot or the big toe.
Other Sources Of The Sciatica Stigma
It Affects Your Legs
One of the reasons sciatica gets so much attention is since the sciatic nerve’s roots feed to the legs, and we use our legs a lot. Sciatica may be perceived by patients as being more painful when compared to a compressed root in a less active portion of the human body, for example in the torso. In case you compressed or irritated another nerve of prominence or identical use to your own leg, it will be equally as distressing as sciatic pain.
Muscle Spasms Are The Actual Culprit
Another rationale sciatica is associated with intense pain isn’t related to nerve compression muscle spasms. A patient with sciatic symptoms is hunched over and can’t stand up straight when, that’s a signal the patient has had a back spasm due to the nerve irritation. As sciatica changes your lumbar spine, the muscles that could spasm following nerve damage will be the large, postural back muscles. You’ll feel them when they spasm, because these muscles are so large. On the other hand, if a neck nerve root is compressed by you, you won’t find a muscle spasm that is potential quite as much because the muscles near the cervical spinal column are much smaller. (But spasms of neck muscles can nevertheless be really painful!)
Sciatica Is A Standard Enemy
The lumbar spine is prone to wear and tear on the intervertebral discs. When this happens, materials that irritate the encompassing nerves are leaked by the discs. Discs can also herniate, and that may irritate the nerve. Sometimes, the commonality of sciatica helps it be a catch all diagnosis when a patient doesn’t even have nerve root problem. For example, tweaking your back from lifting is generally a muscular problem, not a nerve issue.
Nerve Pain Is Created Equal
There are various causes of back malady, and sciatica is merely one. As they are all equally hazardous, sciatica isn’t especially unique when you compare it to other types of nerve malady. It can be really intense and debilitating, when nerve pain happens everywhere in the body. Lives are turned upside down from nerve pain, so don’t hesitate to see a spine specialist to simply help alleviate nerve pain in your neck or back.
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The information herein on "Why Is Sciatica So Painful?" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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