If you're suffering sciatica, you're likely accustomed to the pain, tingling, and numbness that accompany sciatic symptoms. Sciatica is the common name for lumbar radiculopathy, a collection of symptoms that occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed.
While sciatica symptoms cause burning, tingling, shooting, and radiating pain throughout the lower back down to the toes, it can also cause lesser known side effects. Check out these five surprising side effects of sciatica.
1. Losing Balance
Sciatica commonly causes numbness and muscular weakness in the leg, calf, foot, and toes. While painful and bothersome to cope with, there is a hidden danger behind these symptoms, especially numbness. Numbness alters the body's proprioception, a medical term for the body's awareness of its position in space.
When proprioception is inhibited or altered, communication from the body to the brain is intercepted. This causes confusion for the brain, ultimately impacting our natural balance. Doing so can result in falls, ankle injuries, or other balance-related injuries.
2. Postural Distortion
When we experience chronic pain in a localized area, our body's natural reaction is to avoid placing pressure, twisting or bending, or using the certain body part. Often we manipulate our posture or our gait as a means of protecting the lower back or legs from pain. This habit is referred to as overprotective posture, and it can actually have a slew of adverse side effects.
While initially removing pressure from the site sciatica symptoms radiate from can feel good, altering the body's natural alignment can actually alter the anatomical characteristics of the spine. This can result in back and neck pain, headaches, and fatigue. Postural distortion can also negatively impact digestion, organ function, and breathing patterns.
3. Declining Reflexes
Depending on where the sciatic nerve is compressed, pain and numbness can affect the lower leg and feet. In fact, damage to the sciatic nerve can cause an inability to flex the foot upwards, and also reduce the knee-jerk reflex.
This reflex, also referred to as the patellar reflex, is the sudden kicking motion of the lower leg. The movement happens in response to a sharp tap on the patellar tendon, which lies just below the kneecap. Sciatica symptoms can numb this region, making it unresponsive to stimulus, thus hindering the reflex.
4. Difficulty with Certain Footwear
Just as compression of the sciatic nerve can inhibit the foot from flexing upwards, it can also numb the web between the big toe and the second toe, cause an inability to flex the big toe, and make it difficult to raise the heel off the ground. This can cause problems with certain footwear.
For example, in flimsy footwear (which we've warned you about!) such as flip flops, numbness in the toes can make it difficult to properly lift the feet up and down, resulting in a painful shuffle. Likewise, footwear that places pressure on the heels, such as stilettos, can exacerbate pain in the legs, calves, and feet.
5. Loss of Bowel or Bladder Function
The cauda equina consists of 10 pairs of nerve roots, some of which combine to form the sciatic nerve. It is responsible for sensory and motor innervation to the pelvis and lower limbs, and controls the bowel and bladder function. As with sciatica, the cauda equina nerve can be damaged by inflammation or compression in the lower back. When this occurs, a patient can lose the ability to retain or eliminate urine or stool.
While damage to the cauda equina is not a side effect of sciatica, it's important to take note. Symptoms of cauda equina damage can mirror sciatica, as it causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the lower back and legs. If you've been experiencing sciatic symptoms that are accompanied by bowel and/or bladder incontinence, it might be a sign of something more serious than sciatica and should be addressed immediately.
Sciatica symptoms can put a damper on daily life. Fight back today with chiropractic care; a safe and effective method of eradicating sciatica symptoms - and side effects - naturally. For more information or to book an appointment with a trusted chiropractor, contact ChiroCare of Florida today.