Sciatica Due To Disc Injury

Sciatica due to disc herniation occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or irritated – most commonly in the lower back. In this article I will discuss this common cause of sciatica.

In this article:

  • Review How the Lumbar Discs Become Injured
  • Understand How Injured Discs Cause Sciatica Pain
  • Learn the Best Treatment Options for Sciatica – Including Cox Technique

Understanding Disc Injury

The spine consists of a series of block-like bones stacked together, and between each of these bones is an intervertebral disc.  Each of these discs consists of an inner part containing jelly-like substance known as the nucleus, and a outer part which is made up of a series of thin ligamentous layers that wrap around the nucleus.

To conceptualize this think of a water balloon whose liquid centre is contained by the rubbery outer layer of the balloon.

With the spine in an upright position gravity pushes the bones of the spine together.  This compressive motion acts increases the pressure in the disc and squeezes the jelly-like nucleus outward from the centre towards the periphery.  To use an analogy, this is the same thing that happens when when you squeeze that water balloon between your hands, causing the pressure to increase within the balloon.

Under normal circumstances this outward pressure is absorbed by the rubbery outer layer of the balloon, on in the case of the spine by the outer ligamentous layers of the disc.  This ensures the jelly-like nucleus remains in the centre of the disc.

However, if the disc becomes damaged it will not be able to properly counteract the increased disc pressure, and it will not be able to as contain the jelly-like nucleus in the centre. Instead, the damaged part of the disc will start to bulge or herniate outward.

Not only can this cause back pain as a result of the damage to the disc itself, but as the disc herniates it can pinch or compress the nerve roots in the spinal foramen behind the disc.  This will lead to damage and inflammation of the nerve, which is what is responsible for the pain and neurologic symptoms such as burning, numbness, or muscle weakness into the leg.

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The Best Treatment Options For Sciatica

Fortunately, very few sciatica cases require surgery, with most patients responding well –  and often quickly to conservative treatment.  However, given the pain and potential for long term and even permanent neurological deficits, these conditions need to be diagnosed and managed properly.

The first priority in treating these cases is to reduce the pressure on the damaged disc and compressed nerve root so they can start to heal and get the patients pain under control – this usually requires a combination of specific in-office treatment, along with special home-based exercises to stimulate the disc and nerve to heal.

In our office we use a treatment method known as Cox Flexion-Distraction.  We have published other articles and videos that demonstrate this treatment in detail, but for the sake of continuity I will provided a brief description here as well.

Cox Therapy for Sciatica

Cox treatment uses a specially engineered table that gently pulls and stretches the spine. With the patient lying on the table, the lower section of the table can be slowly pulled down and away. This motion lengthens the spine, which pulls the bones of the spine away from each other and acts to “decompress” the damaged disc.

Unlike other traction or decompression therapies, with this treatment we are able to focus the stretching and decompressive effect at the specific areas of the spine that are damaged.

Not only does this open the joints of the spine and take pressure off of the pinched and compressed nerve roots, but this procedure also reduces pressure with the intervertebral disc , which reduces strain and stimulates healing of the damaged disc. It also creates a vacuum effect within the disc, which acts to pull the herniated nucleus back towards the centre of the disc, helping to reduce the size of the herniation and reduce pressure on disc and adjacent nerve root.

In addition to using Cox technique, we also prescribe specific exercises to help manage pain and stimulate healing of both the disc and the inflamed nerve root. These exercises are a critical part of treatment as the patient can do them several times a day as opposed to only receiving in office treatment a few times per week.

We have found that combining cox treatment with these home based disc and nerve based exercised we are able to help most sciatic patients get out of pain and get back doing the things they want and need to do. with dramatic improvement coming in just a few weeks.

Get Relief with Cox Technique

To book an appointment to see if Cox Flexion-Distraction will be able to help with your Sciatica symptoms simply call our office at (905) 685-7227, or book and initial appointment using our online booking system.