December 2012 Archives

This is the time of year to ponder such a question.  In my opinion, the answer is a resounding “YES!” But before understanding reasons for this opinion, it’s important to understand what “sciatica” means.  Sciatica is pain that shoots down the leg, often made worse with standing and activity while decreased when supine. In its most severe form, it may be accompanied by leg weakness, numbness, or tingling. Sciatic, often accompanied by back pain, affects nearly 80% of the population during the course of their lifetime with the pain often recurring.  The most common cause of it is either disk herniation or arthritis in the spine, either of which results in nerve root compression.

  There are many risk factors predisposing Santa to sciatica.  The most obvious is his weight, resulting in a lumbar lordosis, or low back extension backward. The weight and lordosis causes excessive wear and tear on the lumbar disks and facet joints, resulting in back pain and nerve impingement causing sciatica.  Age is also a risk factor, with increasing sciatica frequency as you get older and into your “Santa years.”  Lack of activity, such as what Santa certainly experiences confined indoors at the North Pole, compounded with his stressful career of getting all those gifts delivered in a single night, are two additional sciatica risk factors. Santa is certainly doing a lot of heavy lifting, shuffling himself and gifts into those chimneys.  Improper lifting and twisting under heavy weight, referred to as “poor body mechanics,” is one of the most common reasons for disks to herniate.

At Integrated Pain Solutions, we understand sciatica, its many causes and how to properly manage it.  Trials of physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants are first line therapies. Occasionally a short dose of oral steroids or low dose narcotics are indicated.  With more refractory cases, epidural steroid injections, targeting the area of nerve impingement, is curative.  With these appropriate conservative measures, surgery is rarely indicated.  Nutritional therapies targeting the weight issues, as well as core strengthening and instruction on body mechanics, will help treat the root cause of the sciatica and prevent recurrence.