Have you ever felt a sharp, shooting pain travel down the back of your leg? How about a dull, persistent ache or tingling and numbness? Have you felt any of these sensations in your arms or hands? Or anywhere else on your body?
If you regularly deal with shooting pains, numbness, or tingling, you may be suffering from one of three conditions we frequently treat at Bomberg. Sciatica affects the lower body, carpal tunnel syndrome affects the wrists and hands, and pinched nerves can occur in several different areas of the body.
Millions of people develop these conditions at some point throughout their lives, and they can certainly be debilitating. Fortunately, all of these conditions often respond well to conservative chiropractic treatments, so if you’re looking to avoid pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures, we may be able to help.
Read on to learn all about the causes of numbness and tingling we commonly treat at Bomberg Chiropractic.
What is Sciatica?
The term sciatica refers to the symptom set that presents when the sciatic nerve is irritated, entrapped, or compressed. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body, originating in the lumbar spine and traveling down the back of each leg.
At times, the nerve becomes compressed by degenerative spinal changes, injuries, or even muscular tension. This compression is what generates the irritating and painful set of symptoms referred to as sciatica. Often, patients confuse sciatica with other types of low back pain that may instead be due to strained muscles or improper lifting techniques.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
The telltale symptom of sciatica is radiating pain that travels from the low back, through the buttock, and down the leg. Typically, pain and irritation are unilateral, meaning the symptoms affect only one side of the body.
However, in rare cases, patients may experience bilateral sciatica if the lumbar spine undergoes more severe degenerative changes. Beyond pain, sciatica elicits several other symptoms which may include:
● Numbness of the buttock, leg, or foot
● Tingling that radiates down the leg
● Burning sensation in the low back, buttock, or leg
● Lower body weakness
Often, simple changes in postural positioning elicit more severe symptoms. Many patients find their discomfort increases significantly during extended periods of standing or sitting. Activities that require a slight forward bend, such as washing dishes or preparing meals, also tend to aggravate sciatica symptoms.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica may stem from structural abnormalities within the spine, injuries, spinal tumors, or severe muscular tension in the gluteus (buttocks) muscles. A few of the more common underlying causes of sciatica include:
● Herniated Spinal Disc(s). Disc herniation is the most common cause of sciatica, affecting approximately one in 50 individuals. When the gel-like substance within a spinal disc pushes through the tough outer layer, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve root, causing pain and irritation. Often, disc herniation is a result of degenerative disc disease.
● Spinal Stenosis. The natural aging process can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal from which the sciatic nerve originates. Sometimes, this narrowing puts pressure on the sciatic nerve root, resulting in pain and irritation.
● Bone Spurs. Bone spurs are tiny bone growths that may form on the spinal vertebrae. When the spur becomes large enough, it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve root.
● Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle located deep in the center of each buttock that connects the sacrum (lower spine) to the uppermost portion of the femur (thigh bone). Because the piriformis passes directly over the sciatic nerve, if it becomes exceedingly tight or spasms, it can put significant pressure on the nerve.
● Injury. Improper lifting techniques or sudden, traumatic injury can injure the sciatic nerve itself, or cause injury to surrounding structures, which can result in pressure on the nerve.
Who Is Most Susceptible to Sciatica?
Generally, sciatica affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50; however, degenerative spinal changes like stenosis and arthritis typically occur long past the age of 50. If the condition develops as a result of spinal degeneration, it may affect individuals far more advanced in age.
Pregnant women often develop temporary sciatica symptoms due to increased load on the pelvic structures. The weight of a developing fetus can put substantial pressure on the SI joints, hip joints, and piriformis muscle, thereby irritating the sciatic nerve.
Although sciatica often results due to degenerative spinal conditions, those who are highly active are also at risk. The more force your spine must tolerate, the higher your chances of developing early disc degeneration. If you practice high-impact sports or have a highly physical vocation that involves substantial lifting, you’re at a higher risk of developing sciatica.
Conversely, too much sitting can also cause compression and degeneration of your spinal discs. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, work a desk job, or drive extensively, your risk increases.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that produces weakness, numbness, and tingling in the affected hand and wrist. If left untreated, this condition may cause damage to the median nerve, which travels through the wrist and into the hand.
What Are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel symptoms often begin slowly. They can occur at any time and may become more pronounced over time. Common symptoms include:
● Difficulty performing tasks with the hand, especially when attempting to write, grasp objects, use a computer keyboard, or handle small items
● Diminished ability to feel things with the fingertips
● Tingling fingers
● Hand weakness
● Inability to perform intricate motions with the fingers, such as tying a shoe or buttoning a shirt
● Muscle atrophy near the thumb (at this point, the condition is likely advanced)
It’s important to note that carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t the only condition that can cause weakness, numbness, and tingling in the hand. Similar conditions, such as arthritis, trigger finger, and De Quervain’s tendinosis can also cause comparable symptoms.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
On the palm side of the hand, there is a narrow passageway — called the carpal tunnel — that’s surrounded by ligaments and bones. The median nerve, which provides motor function to the forearm, wrist, and hand, passes through this tunnel.
When that nerve becomes compressed by the tissues within and surrounding the tunnel, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can result.
Who’s at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
People who perform activities that require repetitive motion of the fingers and/or wrist may have a higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than those who don’t. But several other factors are also associated with the condition. People who have any of the following risk factors may also have an increased risk of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome:
● Wrist fracture or dislocation
● Wrist or hand deformity
● Anatomically small carpal tunnel
● Conditions that damage nerves, including diabetes
● Conditions that cause chronic inflammation
● Chronic fluid retention
● A vocation that requires the use of vibrating tools or repetitive hammering
● Certain medical conditions, including lymphedema, menopause, thyroid disorders, and kidney failure
Research has shown that women may be more prone to carpal tunnel syndrome than men, simply because they tend to have anatomically smaller carpal tunnels. Pregnancy is also a risk factor for the condition since blood volume naturally doubles during pregnancy.
Pinched Nerves Elsewhere on the Body
Both sciatica symptoms and carpal tunnel symptoms stem from compression of a nerve, but these conditions are two of the manifestations of a pinched nerve. Painful nerve compression can occur virtually anywhere on the body when:
● Muscles surrounding a nerve become inflamed or injured and put too much pressure on the nerve.
● Tendons or ligaments place pressure on a nerve.
● Bone or cartilage pinch a particular nerve (bones spurs are a common culprit).
Aside from the back, glutes, and wrists, the most common sites for pinched nerves include the elbows and neck. Athletes who use their upper bodies heavily may also be prone to some degree of nerve compression in the upper chest area. A pinched nerve in this area can send pain, numbness, or tingling into the arm and hand.
How Can Chiropractic Help?
Non-invasive chiropractic therapy is one of the most effective, yet gentlest forms of treatment for relief from sciatic pain and irritation. Through careful physical examination and a thorough review of your medical history and day-to-day activities, your chiropractor will determine the underlying cause of the pain, numbness, or tingling you feel.
The appropriate diagnosis is a critical step in formulating the most effective course of treatment. After reaching a diagnosis, your chiropractor will then pursue the appropriate treatment techniques which may include:
● Movement-Based Massage. If the sciatic nerve is entrapped or irritated by muscular tension, movement-based massage, also known as active release technique, can help release the tension, reduce pain, and restore normal range of motion.
● Spinal Adjustments. Gentle spinal manipulation helps bring your vertebrae back into proper alignment, reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve root. If your hips or SI joints are out of alignment and causing irritation to the sciatic nerve, these joints may also be adjusted.
● TENS Therapy. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) helps reduce nerve pain and irritation via low-voltage electrical currents. When placed on the skin at or near the affected nerve, TENS electrodes transfer a gentle electrical current into the body. This current is thought to block pain signaling via nerve stimulation or release endorphins that modify the brain’s perception of pain.
To learn more about the chiropractic techniques that can help, check out 5 Chiropractic Treatment Techniques and How They Help Your Body Thrive.
Pain Relief Starts at Bomberg Chiropractic
If you believe you’re suffering from some form of nerve compression, at Bomberg Chiropractic, our caring and knowledgeable team is here to help. We’re dedicated to delivering compassionate, highly individualized treatment for our patients in and around the Plymouth, MN area and would love to welcome you into our care.
To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, feel free to give us a call at 763-450-1755. You can also message us with any questions or concerns, and we’ll be in touch!