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Chiropractor for Algonquin and Lake in the Hills
Photo of a chiropractor performing a physical examination of a patient with leg pain.

How Can I Tell if I Have Sciatica or Peripheral Neuropathy?

Learn How Peripheral Neuropathy Differs from Sciatica

Do you struggle with constant pain, fatigue, sleep deprivation, and other symptoms making it hard to get through each day? If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, tingling, and balance issues, two potential underlying causes are sciatica and peripheral neuropathy.

Both conditions cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the legs and feet. They also both negatively affect your strength and balance, making you more likely to fall. Finally, both can have a negative impact on the quality of your life by limiting the activities you enjoy, disturbing your sleep, and forcing you to use potentially addictive medication.

Sciatica’s symptoms tend to include back pain, occur on one side of the body, and fluctuate with bodily position. Peripheral neuropathy’s symptoms tend to include leg pain but not back pain, occur on both sides, and remain constant regardless of body position.

Now, let’s look more closely at the differences in the symptoms and causes of neuropathic and sciatic pain and what you should do next.

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Photo of a man grasping his lower back while a doctor takes notes.

What Causes Low Back Pain and How Can Chiropractic Care Treat It?

Learn Where Low Back Pain Comes From and Why Chiropractic Should Be Your First Line of Treatment

If you’re like many Americans, you’re probably starting to experience pain in your lower back. In fact, 80% of people will have disabling low back pain at some point in their lives. Maybe you suffered an injury at work, maybe you’ve developed a painful spinal condition, or maybe you can’t pinpoint any specific cause at all. No matter what the case is, the end result is the same: you have low back pain and you want answers.

“Why do I have low back pain? How can I alleviate my back pain?” We hear this every day from patients at Algonquin Chiropractic Center, where we treat low back pain in Algonquin, IL. Let’s dive into those questions and talk about the prevalence, causes, and treatments for low back pain, including chiropractic care and low back surgery.

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Featured Image of low back surgery.

Is Low Back Surgery the Answer to Lower Back Pain?

Learn More About Low Back Surgery Before You Decide

Many people believe low back surgery is the “cure-all” for low back pain and leg pain. This includes pain from conditions such as ruptured discs, sciatica, stenosis, herniated discs, and bulging discs.

However, only a small percentage (less than 5%) of back pain sufferers undergo a low back surgery, while 95% don’t! Not only that, but studies show of the people having low back surgery, up to 70% may be unnecessary.

 

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Trump Calls Opioids a “Public Health Emergency”—How Bad Is It?

An Epidemic Abuse Makes Opioids a Risky Choice for Pain Management

“Trump declares opioid epidemic a national public health emergency” read CNN’s headline last month. When the president of the United States discusses a specific health problem, how bad is it?

How Bad is the Opioid Epidemic?

Photo of a person lying on the floor with a bottle of pills next to them after an opioid overdose.

Let’s look at these facts from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)’s Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts & Figures:

Opioid Addiction

  • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
  • Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
  • Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
  • Of the 20.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2015, 2 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 591,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • It is estimated that 23% of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.

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What is Spinal Stenosis and How Do We Treat It?

Spinal Stenosis- What Is It and How Is It Treated?

Here at the Algonquin Chiropractic Center, many of our patients come in with back pain. This pain can lead from a variety of causes, but one common source is spinal stenosis. So, let’s discuss this condition, what causes it, and how it’s treated.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Let’s turn to Mayo Clinic for an overview:Photo of a man grabbing his lower back in pain.

“Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the lower back and the neck…

The backbone (spine) runs from your neck to your lower back. The bones of your spine form a spinal canal, which protects your spinal cord (nerves).

Some people are born with a small spinal canal. But most spinal stenosis occurs when something happens to narrow the open space within the spine. Causes of spinal stenosis may include:

  • Overgrowth of bone. Wear and tear damage from osteoarthritis on your spinal bones can prompt the formation of bone spurs, which can grow into the spinal canal.
  • Herniated disks. The soft cushions that act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae tend to dry out with age. Cracks in a disk’s exterior may allow some of the soft inner material to escape and press on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Thickened ligaments. The tough cords that help hold the bones of your spine together can become stiff and thickened over time. These thickened ligaments can bulge into the spinal canal.
  • Abnormal growths can form inside the spinal cord, within the membranes that cover the spinal cord or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae. These are uncommon and identifiable on spine imaging with an MRI or CT.
  • Spinal injuries. Car accidents and other trauma can cause dislocations or fractures of one or more vertebrae. Displaced bone from a spinal fracture may damage the contents of the spinal canal. Swelling of nearby tissue immediately after back surgery also can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.”

Most commonly in our clinic we will see older patients with moderate to advance osteoarthritis who have spinal stenosis in the neck and/or low back.

What Are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Returning again to Mayo Clinic:

Many people have evidence of spinal stenosis on an MRI or CT scan but may not have symptoms. When they do occur, they often start gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the stenosis and which nerves are affected.

In the neck (cervical spine)

  • Numbness or tingling in a hand, arm, foot or leg
  • Weakness in a hand, arm, foot or leg
  • Problems with walking and balance
  • Neck pain
  • In severe cases, bowel or bladder dysfunction (urinary urgency and incontinence)

In the lower back (lumbar spine)Visual representation of lower back pain resulting from spinal stenosis.

  • Numbness or tingling in a foot or leg
  • Weakness in a foot or leg
  • Pain or cramping in one or both legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk, which usually eases when you bend forward or sit
  • Back pain”

Typically, a patient over 50 will present a history of low back pain and more recently pain, cramping, or tingling in one or both legs. These patients can stand or walk for a period of time from a few seconds to 20-30 minutes before they develop increased leg pain, cramping, or numbness. Sitting down, bending forward, or leaning over a shopping cart will relieve the pain.

Next time you are in a supermarket look for the older people leaning over their shopping carts—they have spinal stenosis!

These patients feel worse when they are walking and being active. So, what do they do? They sit! They sit to avoid or relieve the pain.

Spinal stenosis is more than back and leg pain. People go from being active and living an active lifestyle to sitting most of the day. A sedentary lifestyle will cause you to gain weight, increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and peripheral artery disease, and cause you to become “deconditioned.”

We know bones grow when they are stressed by physical activity, so when you’re deconditioned your bones will become weaker, causing osteoporosis. When you’re deconditioned your balance isn’t as good either. Having weak bones and losing your balance is a recipe for a hip fracture, spinal fracture, or head injury.

So how do we treat this?

How is Spinal Stenosis Treated?

Looking at Mayo Clinic’s website, they list medication, physical therapy, steroid injections, and surgery as the only treatment for spinal stenosis.

Let’s look at those options:

Medication–In May of 2017 the FDA recommended physicians look for non-pharmacological (no drugs) treatments when dealing with pain, including chiropractic. In Section II of their “Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain,” they listed chiropractic as an option.

Soon after, the American College of Physicians recommended non-pharmacological treatments as a first line of treatment.

These recommendations are all designed to keep people away from opioid drugs and the devastating addiction that can go along with their use.

Physical Therapy–In 2006 a study in the European Spine Journal found that patients with leg pain did “significantly better” with our techniques compared to physical therapy. Patients also had “significantly lower pain scores” after one year. Physical therapy has its place, but if you have leg pain you may want to consider chiropractic first.

Steroid Injections–How effective are cortisone injections for relieving back and leg pain?

Another study in the December 2004 issue of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that 50-75% of patients with radicular pain (leg pain) had temporary relief after the injections, and only 25-57% received excellent long-term relief.

Meanwhile, the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in March 2004 reported that lumbar injections provide only 32% of patients sustained relief.

Surgery–As a general rule, most people want to avoid surgery if they can. On top of that, in 2008 the British Medical Journal reported that outcomes for surgically treated patients and conservatively-treated patients were similar after one and even two years. Why go through surgery if you won’t be any better than you would have been without it?

You can avoid all this!

According to the Spine Journal in 2012:

  • 0% of spine surgery patients have at least one documented complication
  • 0% had an extended stay in the hospital due to complications
  • 5% had post-operative complications
  • 5% had surgical complications
  • 5% died

As it turns out, even the mighty Mayo Clinic may not have all the answers for spinal stenosis.

Does this make sense? You want to take as few meds as possible, right? You want to stay off opioids at all costs. Injections may be an option, but if we can avoid it, even better. We also want to avoid surgery at all costs.

With proprietary, individualized treatment plans for spinal stenosis and leg pain, we use a combination of the Cox Technic, massage therapy, spinal bracing, orthotics, vibration therapy, laser therapy, and rehab to improve patients’ quality of life.

Spinal stenosis surgeons don’t like us, but you will like the results!

Be Well!

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