Sciatica From Low Back Sprain VS Disc Herniation Sioux City
Sciatica, low back pain radiating into the hamstring, lower leg, and foot, affects millions of Americans each year. Sciatica is a term for radiating pain. It does not uniquely describe the tissue injured or where the injury is located in the body. Several different types of back injuries can produce this radiating sciatic pain, and can be very similar, though subtle differences can provide information on the injury at the root of the symptoms.
Low back sprains, sacroiliac sprains, piriformis syndrome, and spinal disc herniations all cause sciatica. Severe back sprains look and act a lot like moderate disc injuries in the first week or two—the two conditions are commonly confused in the early stages, but later come to act in distinct patterns.
Spinal Disc Herniations
Spinal disc herniations occur when the jelly-like material inside a disc moves outward, and impedes the spinal cord. This substance within the disc is surrounded by a thick fibrous tissue, which normally keeps the fluid in the middle of the disc—however, with time, repetitive forces, and injuries, tears may develop in the fibrous tissue, allowing the disc material to exit. In some cases, the disc material moves completely outside the lumbar disc: we call this a disc herniation or disc extrusion. The disc material can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots, producing sciatic pain. Spinal disc herniations are often accompanied by a loss of sensation in parts of the leg, reduced reflexes in the quadriceps or Achilles, and, potentially, loss of muscle strength.
Moderate and severe spinal disc herniations tend to produce pain which continues past the knee and into the foot. (Additionally, disc herniations are often painful when a person coughs or sneezes.) Several orthopedic tests your chiropractor will perform will reproduce this pain, while other tests will relieve it.
Low Back Sprains
Low back sprains are often characterized by pain originating in the same location as in disc herniations. The pain starts in the low back and radiates down the leg. Severe cases send sciatic pain into the foot, but usually the pain wraps around the knee. This pain is aggravated by the same positions which aggravate pain associated with disc herniations; however, coughing and sneezing are less painful.
Some of the orthopedic tests that increase back pain related to disc herniations do not cause pain in patients suffering from low back sprains. In addition, low back sprains can be relieved with several positions that are very painful in the case of disc herniations.
Treatment for spinal disc herniations and low back sprains are similar, but have distinct variations. Spinal disc herniations respond very well to disc decompression or to traction movements. Low back sprains get worse with decompression. Both conditions respond very well to light traction or flexion distraction treatments designed to increase joint range of motion. Heat, ice, electric, ultrasound, and cold laser are treatments that help decrease pain and muscle spasms associated with both types of injury. Light massage therapy treatments can be used in the early stages of treatment to decrease pain and muscle spasms, and enhance movement. In later stages, massage therapy can address deeper muscle spasms that contribute to pain and functional limitation.
Both injuries respond very well to chiropractic treatments to increase joint range of motion, decrease pain, and restore normal joint mechanics. Core strengthening and stability exercises can be performed later in treatment in order to restore proper strength, endurance, and functional movement patterns of the low back; this is done with the aim of reducing the likelihood of future injuries.
Low back sprains and disc herniations are common causes of sciatica. Your particular pattern of radiating pain and associated symptoms will help your chiropractor differentiate between the injuries. Proper diagnosis allows for the best possible treatment plan to accelerate your healing and recovery from low back and sciatic pain.