In today’s episode, we are speaking with Dr. Matthew Phinney. Dr. Phinney is the founder of The Chiropractor Doctors in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he is committed to improving the health and vitality of his community through chiropractic and wellness care. He is originally from Toronto Canada and he graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport Iowa. Dr. Matthew Phinney is widely considered to be one of the top chiropractors specializing in holistic and alternative health in the country and he is also a contributing member of our national network of industry professionals.
Today we are going to talk about a very important topic: Sciatica
RC: Hi Dr. Phinney, how are you today?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Hello Liz, doing fantastic thank you.
RC: Well thanks for being here.
Question 1: Is it true that the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body? Where is it located?
RC: So first question I have is: Is it true that the sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and where is it located?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah that is correct Liz. The sciatic nerve is the largest and longest nerve in the body. It’s located from the lower lumbar/lower back and goes all the way down past the glutes into the thigh and all the way down to the very tip of the toe.
Question 2: Sciatica is the term used to describe the pain from the sciatic nerve. Can you describe some of the symptoms of sciatica that people experience?
RC: Okay and sciatica is the term used to describe the pain from the sciatic nerve. Can you describe some of the symptoms of sciatica that people experience?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah of course. A couple things people will commonly tell us when they come in is they get like a numbness, a tingling, a burning type sensation down the leg. Sometimes it will be like a deep sort of dull ache in through say the groin. Often times, typically goes from the knee all the way down into the feet. But aching, stabbing, burning, throbbing, sharp, searing. Those are a lot of the common symptoms that people will typically experience with sciatica.
Question 3: What are the most common causes of sciatica?
RC: Okay and what are the most common causes of sciatica.
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Common causes typically come from (there’s two main) but they typically come from the lower back and so it usually has to do with some sort of alignment issue, a structural or functional issue in the lower back which is termed as a subluxation. It’s essentially a misalignment of the spine that puts pressure on the nerve and nervous system. So sciatica, again yeah the largest nerve in the body, when there is a misalignment or a twisting or shifting in say the hips or the pelvis that can cause pressure on those nerve roots and those nerve roots travel all the way down into the legs so that can cause problems wherever that nerve travels.
The sciatic nerve also will pass through a muscle we call the piriformis muscle and so that’s another potential cause of sciatica – due to extensive tightness of that muscle also putting pressure on that nerve.
So there are a couple different stretches we’ll have people do but we want to rule in or out whether or not it’s coming from the lower back or it’s coming from that piriformis and there’s different testing we can do to determine that one way or the other.
But causes for that include things like sports injuries, falls, accidents, car accidents, sitting at a desk all day long. It’s estimated that as Americans, we actually sit at a desk throughout our entire lifetime for about thirty-four years. So thirty-four years is spent sitting. And sitting for the spine, sitting for the nervous system, is like sugar for the teeth. It essentially rots, the body rots the spine. So those are a couple of the main causes.
Question 4: Why does sciatica pain come and go?
RC: Oh wo, so why does sciatica pain sometimes come and go?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: A lot of times, people will have sciatica, it will be there and then go away, it will be there and then it’ll go away. The reason why is it comes down to the nerve and the make-up of the sciatic nerve. About ten percent of the nerve – what that nerve does – is actually sensory. The remaining ninety percent, forty-five is responsible for controlling muscle function of the legs and then the other forty-five percent of that sciatic nerve goes to organ and glandular. And so what that essentially means is you can have pressure, you can have impression or irritation on up to ninety percent of that nerve and you don’t necessarily feel anything. You go from that eight percent into that ten percent and boom now you have excruciating pain. And so it just depends on where irritation or where that pressure is being put on that nerve as to whether or not you’re going to feel pain.
One of the big problems is often times, sciatica is the evolution of something that has been going on in the lower back or the hips for a period of time. And people usually don’t do anything about it or they put it off because it comes and goes. They think “Hey it’s just going to go away again. So ninety-five percent of the people that I actually see when they come into my office, when I ask them when the first time they ever had any type of issue was (you know) often times it’s at least ten years. You know something comes and goes and then it progressively gets worse to a point where now it’s constant.
Question 5: Is exercise better for relieving sciatic pain than rest?
RC: Okay so is exercise better for relieving sciatic pain than rest?
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Yeah most definitely. You know, you look at any sort of research out there, the better something moves, the more flexible you are, the stronger that you are, the better that your body is going to function. Now I’m not talking like (you know) you want to go run a marathon or anything like that if you’re suffering from sciatica but light exercise, getting up and moving around, getting some movements into those discs/into those joints actually starts to allow them to heal. The worst thing that you could do when you have something like that is to say go home and lay on the couch or go home and lay twisted in bed all day long. You know light movement, light exercise. Just getting up and getting things moving. Those are a couple of the things and there is a series of specific exercises that we’ll have people do at home that actually help open up those nerve channels and relieve pressure on that sciatic nerve.
So we have a series of spinal hygiene exercises specifically designed and developed for people that are suffering with sciatica. But we’ve first got to determine what’s going on and what exercises are right for them.
Question 6: What nutritional advice do you have for people that are suffering from sciatica?
RC: Okay and what nutritional advice do you have for people that are suffering from sciatica.
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Great Question. We want to always obviously provide our body with optimal nutritional support. The common denominator with a lot of these inflammatory conditions is inflammation and so the less inflammation or the lower the inflammation that we have in the body, the better off you’re going to be. So one of the things you want to look at is Omega 6-3 ratio. So decreasing the Omega 6’s, the vegetables oils, that type of thing. Those are pro-inflammatory: corn, soy. You want to increase the Omega 3’s, the healthy fats, Omega 3 fatty acid, fish oil.
We recommend a product through a company called Nutri-West. It’s ideal, it’s molecularly distilled, it’s got a 2,000 milligram EPA to 1,000 milligram DHA ration, it’s optimal for reducing and decreasing inflammation in the body. Actually works on the same pathways as like Advil and Tylenol. So it’s a cox inhibitor/ cyclooxygenase inhibitor but it doesn’t have any of the nasty side effects. So that’s one of the things we recommend and then the other big thing we recommend is a high dose vitamin D3 and we recommend again high/potent CB3 through a company called Nutri-West. We found that their products tend to be the best when tested.
RC: Alright well thank you so much Dr. Phinney. We know you’re extremely busy so I just want to thank you for your time and help today.
Dr. Matthew Phinney: Thank you so much I appreciate you having us on it’s a privilege.
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This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Matthew Phinney.