“My hip and leg hurts Doc, what does that have to do with my neck?” I hear this question frequently. I understand the disconnect but let me explain.
Let me start by saying I was a 10-year sufferer of sciatica myself. Some days it wasn’t too bad, others it was difficult to walk. Having been an athlete all my life, I stretched seemingly non stop, with little to no result. I tried massage, different exercises, heat, cold, acupuncture, and just about anything you can think of, and the end result was, I still had sciatica. Finally, someone told me my upper cervical spine (upper neck) might be the source of my pain. My first thought was, “that doesn’t really make sense,” but my second thought was, “nothing else has worked so let’s try it.” Very soon I understood how my neck was affecting my leg, but more importantly, I no longer had sciatica.
Sciatica comes from two different sources. Either it is something called piriformis syndrome, or there is a disc issue. Regardless of the source, it is important to understand it is a nerve issue. Nerve impingement (pressure) is causing the shooting intense pain you are feeling.
The large majority of sciatica cases are piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is a hip muscle that runs diagonal across the pelvis. The sciatic nerve is a very large nerve, about the thickness of your pinky, and it runs underneath this muscle. If the muscle is at normal tension, you don’t have a problem, but if something causes the piriformis to go into a tighter tone or spasm, then you are in big trouble. The muscle then presses on the sciatic nerve and the shooting pain begins.
The second and less frequent cause of sciatica is a disc problem in the lower back. Due to trauma, degeneration, or a loss of mechanics the disc between two vertebrae has shifted out of position and is applying pressure to either the spinal cord or a spinal nerve. This pressure causes the burning intense pain in the nerve.
If you are saying “that is great info doc, but what does that have to do with my neck?” here we go. Think of your body and spine as a building. If the top of the building begins to lean, the foundation below is eventually going to feel the effects. When the upper neck gets misaligned, it causes the head to tilt. This begins to put pressure on the rest of the spine. Just like the top of the building leaning puts pressure on the foundation, the head tilt puts pressure on the bottom of the spine, the pelvis. When that happens, the pelvis has to tighten up and shift to accomodate for the uneven load being placed on it, and you get piriformis syndrome. This is why so often other treatments and therapies fail. The origin of the issue is relatively far away from the symptom and must be addressed.
If it is a disc issue, the same pressure that causes the hips to shift, puts undue stress on the spine. The lower back has to deal with pressure it wasn’t designed to handle, and the first thing to fail is the disc. Soft tissue is going to give out before bones, and now we have nerve impingement (pressure from a bulging or herniated disc. The end result again can be sciatica.
I can tell you from personal experience, if you are suffering with sciatica, you need to get your neck checked. Not every case of sciatica is an upper cervical issue, but in my personal and professional experience, a great deal of them begin at the top of the neck. We are experts in this office at evaluating the upper neck and will be able to tell you on the very first visit if your upper neck is the source of your pain. We offer a free consultation and evaluation so you can find out.
Call Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers today at (239) 243-8810.
Dr. Lee Angle
Dr. Lee Angle is originally from southern West Virginia. After having his life changed through Upper Cervical Care he chose to pursue it as a career. He has been practicing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for over nine years. Dr. Angle previously worked as a certified personal trainer. This background allows him to educate his patients on proper movement and exercises to speed their recovery and enhance their Upper Cervical Care.