Sciatica: A Literal Pain in the Butt

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve, the thickest nerve in the body.  It usually radiates/shoots from the lower back into the leg, often below the knee and into the foot. Sciatica is most common in people 30-50 but can happen at any age.

What causes sciatica?

The most common cause is a bulging or herniated disc in the low back (see our previous blog on Disc Injuries). Discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. If the outer rim of the disc tears, due to trauma or repetitive pressure, the jelly-like inner portion of the disc can come out and irritate (like battery acid) or compress the nearby sciatic nerve.

Another common cause is Piriformis Syndrome, in which a tight or spasming piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve.

How do you know if it is sciatica?

  • Low back pain that shoots into the buttock or leg, worsened by coughing/sneezing.
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling into the leg.
  • Diminished reflexes and sensation in legs.
  • When you go see your chiropractor, physical therapist, or other doctor, you will be evaluated, some hands-on testing done where they check for signs of sciatica, and then there may be x-rays and an MRI involved.

How do I treat sciatica, naturally?

  • Rest: if the pain is excruciating and incapacitating, lying down for short periods can help, but prolonged bed rest does not. As soon as you are able to, get up and slowly walk around to loosen up muscles and stimulate some blood flow.
  • Ice: can help reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as break the pain-spasm cycle. 15-20 minutes applied to the painful area can help. Do as often as needed.
  • Minimize/Avoid sitting: Since sitting increases pressure on the discs, avoid or at least minimize prolonged sitting or driving.
  • Chiropractic: can help restore proper function to “stuck” portions of the spine via gentle specific adjustments, while minimizing pain without drugs or surgery.
  • Physical Therapy: can help restore proper length and strength to muscles. Your therapist will develop a program to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and address other structural abnormalities.
  • Acupuncture: can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corrective Exercises: like Physical Therapy, corrective exercises will restore flexibility and strength to the indicated muscles. At Atlas, we offer Corrective Pilates, which is safe, effective, and will address not just the pain, but also the underlying structural issues that led to the pain as well.

If you are looking for a permanent solution for your sciatica, or have any questions, call us at 714 540 6792 for a free phone or in-person consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

5 Ways to Conquer Tech Neck

Chances are, you’re reading this on your phone or laptop and are slouching in a less than ideal posture. (You just straightened yourself up just now, didn’t you? Good.)

Nowadays, our dependency on and overuse of technology, especially cell phones, is wreaking havoc on human posture, leading to a loss of the naturally-occurring curve in the neck, which helps support the head. This can create internal structural changes in your spine that can lead to significant problems over time.

The condition has become so common, so prevalent that it has been dubbed “Tech Neck”, and also goes by several other names:

  • Text Neck
  • Anterior Head Syndrome
  • Forward Head Posture
  • Military Neck

While in the short term it can cause muscle strain, neck pain, and headaches, among other things, over the long term it can lead to more serious health challenges such as radiculopathy (nerve pain due to compression/irritation), and even accelerated degeneration of the spine, i.e. osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.

A few facts: the human head weighs 8-12 pounds. Every inch of forwarding head posture can increase the weight of the head on this by an additional 10 pounds. The joints and muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back have the job of supporting this weight, keeping it balanced and centered. When sitting in a slouched position with your head jutting forward, there’s an additional load placed on the muscles, which in turn can fatigue and transfer the weight low to the vertebrae and especially the discs, magnifying the strain which over time will lead to wear and tear and eventual degeneration.

How do I know if I have Tech Neck?

  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Tension or stiffness in shoulders, upper back
  • Tired vision towards the end of the day.
  • Tingling or numbness in arms or hands.

What Should I Do?

Correcting your posture is something that’s under your control, so awareness and correcting it should be your first course of action when you feel tech neck affecting you. Also, here are some recommendations to minimize your risk of tech neck:

  1. Reduce your phone usage.  (I understand this is difficult given the prevalence of digital addiction, but even a small reduction can have extremely beneficial effects.)
  2. Minimize sitting and slouching.
  3. Optimize your work station ergonomics. Keep your device at eye level more often relieves the stress is that places strain on your neck and upper back.
  4. Restore muscle balance: strengthen your weak muscles and stretch your tight muscles. Usually, your pecs and upper traps are right, and scapular stabilizers are weak, allowing the forward collapse of the shoulders, which will further exacerbate the Tech Neck.
  5. Go see your chiropractor and get X-rays to see IF you suffer from tech neck, and if so, how severe it is. Once you have identified the problem, you can establish a course of action to correct it.

Call us at 714 540 6792 for a free consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

Neck Pain

What Are Some Inexpensive Home Remedies for Back Pain and Neck Pain?

While almost every human will experience neck, back pain, or even sciatica at some point in their life, there is seemingly an endless number of “miracle cures”. Which ones work? Which ones don’t? How do we separate fact from fiction?

First, let’s list some of the more common causes of back or neck pain: postural issues, excessive computer or phone use (aka “tech neck”), tight muscles, sleeping wrong, sports injuries, and car accidents.

  • Ice - If you need short term pain relief until you can get in to see your chiropractor, the simplest, most commonly used approach is ice. You can either use an ice pack that is pre-made and sold online or at any pharmacy or make your own by putting 10-12 ice cubes in a ziplock bag and applying them to the sore area as needed. You apply it over the sore spots for 15-20 minutes, as often as needed. The ice can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and even break up muscle spasms resulting from the injury.
  • Heat - A heat pack can also provide relief from neck and back pain. Moist heat is preferred, and you can make your own “heat pack” by dipping a small towel in hot water and applying it to the sore spot. Apply to the sore spots for 15-20 minutes, as often as necessary.
  • Gentle Stretching - Sometimes back and neck pain can occur due to muscle stiffness and tightness, so gentle stretching can relieve tightness and improve range of motion.
  • Deep Breathing - Sit in a dark, quiet room and take deep breaths in, for 6-10 seconds on the IN phase, and another 6-10 seconds on the OUT phase. Repeat for 15-20 minutes.
  • Natural Anti-Inflammatories - Turmeric, green tea, bromelain, and magnesium, can all be used as natural pain relievers
  • Creams - Capsaicin and Arnica creams can be used safely, and also can provide some much-needed relief from neck and back pain.
  • TENS Units (aka “electrostim”) - Small, battery-operated devices that deliver electrical impulses that flood the nervous system and block pain signals. They are inexpensive, safe, and user-friendly, and can be a great source of pain relief as an alternative to drugs.

Of course, these are only temporary forms of pain relief. Make sure to visit your chiropractor for a complete evaluation to pinpoint the exact cause of your neck and back pain, and to provide a permanent solution that will not only relieve your pain but prevent it from becoming a recurring problem.

Call us at 714 540 6792 for a free consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!