Sciatica back pain is one of the most common and least understood forms of chronic and acute lower body dorsalgia. Sciatica is commonly referred to, diagnosed and treated as a condition unto itself. This is a travesty of medicine, since sciatica is not a disease, illness or degenerative process. Sciatica is merely a symptom. Some structure or process always causes sciatica; it never simply exists on its own.
The scope of this article will detail why and how sciatica causes pain and what types of symptoms may be experienced. Some of the potential causes of sciatic nerve symptoms will be discussed. I will also share some of my own experiences as a long time back pain, neck pain and sciatica sufferer.
Sciatica is defined as pain and other neurological symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet. Not all patients display pain in all locations. The most common neurological symptoms include tingling, numbness and weakness. The wide variety of clinical profiles of sciatica is as vast as the diversity of patients who experience the pain. However, one thing is clear: Sciatica is always a symptom caused by some other pain-inducing process.
The reason why patients have such a diversity of symptom profiles is that the sciatic nerve is made up of 5 different nerve roots which each serve individual areas of the lower body anatomy. Additionally, each nerve root contains sensory and motor fibers and has bilateral branches on each side of the spine. Being that different nerve roots are affected to different degrees in each patient, unilaterally or bilaterally, this creates the variable patterns of pain so often seen with sciatica.
Physical reasons for long-term sciatic nerve pain are rare. Most truly causative structural causes are easily diagnosed and successfully treated in a matter of weeks. When a structural condition does not respond, this may indicate a misdiagnosis of the causative mechanism, especially if multiple indicated therapy options have already been attempted. Some of the most common spinal issues which can cause sciatica include:
Herniated discs can cause acute nerve root involvement leading to pain and other symptoms. Most disc-related nerve compression issues should not become chronic and many will resolve without treatment. Some may require professional care and a few may even benefit from surgical intervention.
Spondylolisthesis is a front to back vertebral misalignment which can create pressure on the lumbar nerve roots causing sciatic nerve pain. This condition is usually treated surgically, although treatment results are mediocre, at best.
Spinal stenosis can constrict the spinal cord or spinal nerves causing a reduction in the nerve signals to and from the lower body. A little known fact says that stenosis anywhere in the spine can cause sciatica-type symptoms. This means that cervical stenosis may cause lower body concerns in much the same manner as lumbar stenosis. Diagnosis is therefore often misguided.
Scoliosis, lordosis and kyphosis problems can trap nerve roots in unusual spinal curvatures and cause compressive neuralgia conditions.
Non-spinal sources of muscular compression can cause a condition known as pseudo-sciatica, such as in the case of piriformis syndrome.
Many sciatica patients are experiencing one of the most commonly expressed forms of psychological back pain, but are rarely aware of its mindbody origin. Ischemia in the lower back affects nerves more than any other bodily location. This oxygen deprivation back pain can continue undiagnosed for a lifetime. There is no medical cure and it is common for patients to run the gauntlet of treatments unsuccessfully looking for some measure of relief. The only hope for effective treatment is to discover and acknowledge the psychoemotional reasons for the pain, which can be a daunting process for many.
The indicated treatment that can help accomplish this is the brainchild of the renowned Dr. John E. Sarno at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan, NY. This treatment approach is called knowledge therapy.
Sciatica was one of my constant torturers. 18 years of suffering for nothing. I subscribed to all the ever-changing structural diagnoses made by my doctors. I tried all the treatments with no success. I believed doctors as they grasped in the ether to find some explanation for my unresolved back pain. I bought in 100%. Was there any other option?
Eventually, I discovered that a PhD does not grant immunity against mistakes. My doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists and others were all wrong about the true nature of my pain. A small group of enlightened doctors (including Dr. John Sarno) showed me the truth. I used their teachings to provide myself with greater relief than any medical care ever enacted. I am so happy to have taken part in the knowledge therapy program, since it provided me many benefits which have endured to this day.