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The Sciatic nerve is a collection of several nerve roots that arise between the vertebrae. These nerve roots join together and form the largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve. This nerve travels down from the lumbar spine (low back) under the gluteal (buttock) muscles and down the legs to the feet. Sciatica is a term used to describe an irritation or pressure on the nerve, which is commonly caused by a bulging or herniated disc in the lumbar spine. This pressure leads to a complex of symptoms that include sharp, radiating pain, as well as burning and / or numbness and / or tingling in the leg or foot.

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This is generally caused by damage to the disc which results in the disc compressing and putting pressure on the exiting nerve root producing symptoms. Sometimes central canal stenosis, lateral stenosis or degenerative disc disease can also cause this nerve compression. This condition is often diagnosed as radiculopathy, meaning that one or more inververtebral discs have herniated or protruded from its normal position and is putting pressure on the nerve root. In many instances, this condition develops slowly as a result of abnormal alignment creating abnormal “wear and tear” on the structures of the spine.

Non-surgical decompression is often effective in these cases because it can address the root cause of the problem – the disc, and through negative pressure restore the disc to its normal position and function resulting in the pressure being removed from the nerve root. Structural correction is often recommended once the disc pressure has been resolved to fully correct the spinal alignment and prevent future occurrences.


Degenerative disc disease is a gradual process that occurs when multiple discs are damaged and left untreated resulting in a degenerative condition and deterioration. This happens when there is a progressive wear and tear of the discs and a weakening of the collagen of the outer bans of the disc (annulus fibrosis) causing a structural and biomechanical change in the disc. As a result, proteoglycan content decreases, and proteoglycans are like sponges that attract and bind water. When there are reduced proteoglycans the discs essentially “dry out” similar to jelly that has been left out for days.

This process affects the “shock” absorbing properties of the disc as the disc is now placed under pressure. This further reduces the disc’s ability to manage mechanical stresses and results in further degeneration.

Leg pain can be very common and the causes can range from muscle strain to degernative joint disease. The legs can be prone to pain as the combine the joints and muscles in the hips, knees, ankles and feet. This combination is responsible for moving the entire body’s weight as well as provide support.

Improper body mechanics, exercise, and repetitive stress and strain can result in leg pain in response to abnormal muscular contraction and abnormal muscular balance.

Patients who have been diagnosed with a bulging or herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or stenosis may also have leg pain due to nerve compression. This is often called radiculopathy and begins with the discs in the lumbar spine and radiates pain into the leg. If this is the case, spinal decompression may be of benefit as it will look to address the cause of the problem.

Intervetebral discs are located between each vertebrae in the spine. These discs make up approximately 1/3 of the spinal column and have three main functions: to absorb shock, to allow movement, and to separate the vertebrae.

Discs consist of an outer layer, the annulus fibrosis, and an inner layer, the nucleus pulposis, which is a soft, jelly-like substance. The disc is made up of proteins called collagen and proteoglycans that attract water. Normally, discs compress when pressure is put on them and decompress when the pressure is relieved.

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Discs do not have a strong blood supply therefore they exchange nutrients by a process called “imbibition”. Similar to a sponge filled with water, when that sponge is compressed, the water is forced out of the sponge. When the compressive force is removed, the water is “sucked” back into the sponge. This is how discs stay healthy and functional.

Damaged discs can lead to any number of conditions including herniated discs, bulging discs, and degenerative discs which can result in secondary conditions that are commonly termed facet syndrome, sciatica, and arthritis.


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