For the first time in my life I experienced sciatica. I must say it came as a surprise for me to feel that intense pain shooting down my right leg. It began all of a sudden after a day of working on patients. This is not to say I have not had low back problems in the past. On the contrary, that is what got me into chiropractic.
When I was in my 20s I injured my low back lifting weights in the gym. After being in pain, off and on, for about a year, I realized that it wasn’t getting better by itself. A friend suggested I see a chiropractor. I did and, as you no doubt guessed, it made all the difference. I became so interested in this field of helping the body to heal naturally that I became a chiropractor.
However, what I have working against me is that I have a tall body. So for this reason, in addition to my sports activities, I have at different points in my life experienced neck pain, mid back pain, hip pain, knee pain and shoulder pain. Seriously, I’ve had all these at one point or another. And some are ongoing issues that I keep at bay. Fortunately, chiropractic has helped keep me together. If it weren’t for chiropractic I would probably be a crotchety grouchy guy.
I’ve often thought that the upside of all this is that when a patient comes in with pain, I can generally empathize with them since I’ve been there myself. But I guess I couldn’t fully empathize specifically with sciatica until now. Sciatica is pain coming from a pinched nerve that runs down one or both legs. The sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the human body, comes out between the two lower vertebrae of the low back and goes down
the back of each leg to the foot. On the way down other nerves branch out that control the muscles, sensation and even some of the organs in the lower body area. It was interesting to experience the way the pinched nerve illustrated the way the nervous system works.
The nervous system is comprised of three parts: the sensory part which controls sensation(pain, heat, cold, touch), the motor part which controls the muscles and the autonomic part, which I like to think of as the “automatic” part. It controls all the organs of the body that work without our thinking about them. The autonomic part of the nervous system is the biggest part. In addition to the pain running down my leg (sensory) I experienced muscle weakness in my right leg (motor), but I have no way of knowing to what extent the organs in that area (autonomic) were being affected.
One of the fringe benefits of chiropractic is that in addition to relieving pain, we are also helping the entire nervous system. One study found that 23% of all people who went to a chiropractor reported improvement in a non-joint related condition. Indeed, I get that all the time. Lots of times people ask me if the fact that they have more energy or sleep better or seem to have better digestion can be due to the adjustments. I explain that, yes, the adjustments help the nervous system which ultimately controls the entire body.
Fortunately my significant other is a chiropractor, too. By the time I got home my pain was about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. I couldn’t sit comfortably. After she worked on me, I did feel some small relief. Then when I went to bed I still could not find a comfortable position. However, I believe the adjustment did the trick. When I woke up the next morning the pain was gone. I did still have some right leg weakness and, in fact, I still have a bit now – a couple weeks later. So, I’ll keep getting adjusted to take pressure off those nerves so my body can heal itself. And I’ll have a bit more empathy for the next patient who comes in complaining of sciatica.