FEATURE — The nervous system of the body is an intricate network that carries signals back and forth from the brain to the body and the body to the brain all day long. Nerves are the messengers that enable us to experience everything around us and within us. The delicate pleasures of the senses, the grand experience of movement, even the intricacies of thought are all because of our nerves.
Nerves stem from the spinal cord and, like branches of a tree, divide and extend throughout our muscles and soft tissues. One of the largest “branches” coming off the stem of our spinal cord is the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve is actually made up of five nerves all bundled together, and its circumference is about the size of a man’s thumb. This large nerve connects the spinal cord with the outside of the thigh, the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, and the muscles in your lower leg and feet. This is why sciatic nerve impingement often results in muscle weakness and numbness and/or tingling in the leg, ankle, foot and toes.
Another common term for sciatic nerve impingement is “sciatica.” Perhaps you have heard someone complaining about this literal pain in their rear end or have experienced it yourself.
Sciatica occurs when there is pressure on the nerve and can either come from the nerve roots of the spine that feed into the nerve or from the sciatic nerve itself. There are muscles around the large sciatic nerve which, if tight or bound, can compress the nerve, causing extreme pain in the buttock area and down the leg. This type of pain can be severely debilitating, as you can imagine.
Once the sciatic nerve is irritated, the inflammation and pain can go on and on, making it difficult to sit, walk or even stand for long periods of time. Unless the body is able to break the cycle of inflammation and repair the tissue, sciatica can linger for weeks and even months. Laser therapy is an effective way to treat painful sciatica symptoms by reducing inflammation in the soft tissues surrounding the nerve, allowing the nerve to heal.
Class IV laser therapy has several components that allow it to make changes in the body. The powerful laser sends beams of light and energy through the skin and deep into the layers of soft tissue and muscle surrounding the nerve. It targets and treats the sciatic nerve and surrounding tissue to actually heal them, not just mask their symptoms, as often is the case with pain medication and even steroid injections.
Laser therapy increases the blood flow to the area and works at a cellular level to stimulate the cells and aide in repair, allowing the body to heal more rapidly. By increasing blood flow, improving cellular function and reducing inflammation, the sciatic nerve is able to recover and the symptoms subside. The process is painless and typically takes only a few minutes.
Many patients note improvement in their condition in just one or two sessions, which may be scheduled three to five times per week until the condition is under control.
Written by DR. WARD WAGNER, Dixie Chiropractic.
This article was first published in St. George Health and Wellness magazine.