Sciatica Back Pain Causes – Military and Civilian Occupations

23 02 2009

I have been asked the question, how do you deal with sciatica pain?  Sciatica can be caused through genetic disease, incorrect posture, injury or overuse of back muscles when the vertebra disc’s (shock absorbers) are defective or inefficient at absorbing vertebrae structural stress.”  Pain and numbness symptoms of sciatica impact the lower body, such as low back, buttocks, back thigh, calves, feet and toes.  Causes of sciatica symptom irritation include tumors, overworked muscle, internal bleeding, infections, injury and other pressure causes.  Sciatica isn’t actually a condition, but instead a medical term used to describe symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, prickly sensation and shooting pain down your leg.

The cause of sciatica varies in pathology but can be effectively alleviated without surgery, or nonintrusive surgery in most cases!  The six most common spinal disorders that cause spinal nerve compression and sciatica lumbar radiculopathy (radiating pain) are:  1) Bulging or herniated disc (The gel-like center of the disc mal-forms creating nerve compression and swelling around the sciatica nerve).  2)  Spinal stenosis (nerve compression through narrowing or clogged nerve pathway – brought about by standing or walking and relieved by sitting down).  3)  Spondylolisthesis (Characterized by slipping and displaced vertebrae – acquired at birth and developed through childhood, trauma or physical stress.  4)  Trauma (accident injury, sports, weight lifting, etc.).  5.   Piriformis syndrome (named for the low back piriformis muscle impinging and irritating the sciatic nerve.  This condition is also very difficult to diagnose and treat due to lack of findings through x-ray and MRI findings).  6.  Spinal tumors (although tumors are rare in the lumbar region, benign or cancerous (malignant) tumors can develop creating nerve compression.  Fortunately, this is a rare.

Sciatica in the lower extremes is caused by injury, poor postural alignment, bad genetics that cause compression, or impingement.  Predominately L4-L5 or S1-S3 vertebrae that create swelling and triggers transmitted pain; including potential damage to the sciatica nerve itself.  Sciatica can be diagnosed through use of x-rays, CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography – 3 dimensional, multiple cross-sectional picture technology) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Magnetism produces images of body structure).

Those that first begin experiencing sciatica may not even connect the back pain condition as the root cause of the pain being experienced in the leg for example.  Your back does not have to be in severe pain to experience sciatica symptoms down the leg.  Although stiffness and/or feeling of swelling and pain in the lower back is usually associated but not necessarily noticed by the patient.  When I was younger, I use to associate the numbness in my right calf and foot with uncomfortable military boots.  It seemed this inconvenience went with the territory for a lot of soldiers “foot discomfort leading to consequential back pain!”  There was much conversation between soldiers regarding military issue boots, foot, calf overall leg and back pain.   A military issued boot has no posture, or padded insoles and the leather requires much work to make it pliable, or comfortable around the foot.   I highly recommend if you are serving in the military, get a pair of Danners (best military boot) thermal water resistant quality.  Also be sure to add our “Posture Control Insoles,” found within our chronic pain center (foot, skeleton, or posture link image).  Discard your basic issue boots as these can only harm your anatomical posture creating many acute and chronic pain problems down the road for you.  This is especially true if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of foot or back pain I just mentioned.

One would think with the science behind many related back problems due to incorrect foot posture, the military would issue boots with insoles that would mitigate foot, knee, hip and back pain-injuries.  Until a military boot or “almost any” shoe is broken in, your feet experience many hot spots, blisters and muscle fatigue within the feet, which may also include partial, or overall pain throughout the calf, knee, leg and back.  Improper foot ware “not corrected” is responsible for years of bad posture body realignment.   This is because your body’s posture works to align itself around pain conditions where the foot is placed under daily stress.  Why do you think some reasons people might limp… Could it simply be due to incorrect foot ware and/or the brain telling the body to shift the walking posture to alleviate uncorrected foot pain?  Absolutely, and what will happen if this limping continues too long without correction?  The body begins to self correct by realigning the posture placing more stress in other areas of the muscular-skeletal structure to alleviate pain and possibly create more injuries up line.  At this point your body is susceptible to further injury because your anatomical posture is now compromised!

In this case, the pain and postural problem is caused from bad foot ware.  And even though soldiers are treated for many foot problems while visiting sick call the standard treatment is moleskin (adhesive pad to cover blisters) on foot and rest.  Thereafter the soldier is sent back out in the field with the same foot ware that caused the sick call treatment in the first place.  Folks, this is a repeat problem for our military men and women… I just don’t get it.  I guess this is one of those cost cutting exercises at the expense of the soldier and tax payers!  It is ironic, we as civilians have all types of federal laws that require businesses to comply with work ergonomics and ADA (American Disability Act) compliance, but completely disregard the science of correct body posture starting at the feet which is creating other health issues for those impacted, leading to service connected and social security disability benefits paid by the tax payer.  It seems to me, a great return on investment would be to pay pennies on the dollar for proper foot ware versus a life-time service connected foot-body postural injuries.

If you have mild forms of sciatica pain symptoms, the condition as you age will worsen much more quickly if foot posture and weight management is not maintained, or corrected.  This is because structural misalignment and added weight contributes to compression and impingement of the spin, causing degenerative and painful effects on muscle, nerves, ligaments and tendons.  Most people that suffer sciatica symptoms experience numbness, tingly to prickly sensation to excruciating sharp- jolting pain.  I liken this sensation as a numbing, achy, sharp to jolting extreme pain experience.  For me sciatica feels like being zapped, or electrocuted for fractional to extended periods of time with numbness and prickly sensation before and after the experience.  Also, when you have an advanced stage of back disorder, there is also swelling with immediate pain in the lower back.  If the pain and swelling is too severe, you will not be up on your feet for a couple of days as a severe back/sciatica episode will completely incapacitate you with excruciating pain where it is difficult to straighten your back.

There is also the term radiculopathy which is used to describe radiating pain caused by a root nerve impingement near the spin.  Radiating pain is caused from a trigger point, or point of nerve impingement through compression.  To make a point-and-case for example, let’s say L5-S1 vertebrae has nerve impingement on the right side of the lower back which creates pain and/or numbness down one side of the back of thigh-to-foot.  Although there is quite a distance from the back problem origin (low back vertebras, L5-S1), it may, or may not be obvious to the patient the low back is creating the pain in the right thigh-calf and/or foot.  Infrequent episodes of sciatica pain can mask an underlying back disorder as it advances in severity through the years.  You can go many years down a quick “back fix” path of medical convenience (muscle relaxants, injections, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, rest, exercises, etc.), and never address the root cause of an insidious back disorder that’s just waiting to take you out of action as you age.  Don’t let surgery be your only option!  Back surgery success to significantly alleviate pain and not create another problem is statistically low.  However, there are now new non-invasive back intervention and alternative treatments that look hopeful for many back pain cases.  Look for non-invasive surgical information in our health repository.

Whenever you begin feeling pain down your leg, calf, foot or big toe to include numbness, tingling, prickly, hot sensations, you should see a physician to address these symptoms and get proper medical diagnosis, advisement and referrals.  Patients that would ignore infrequent episodes of back pain, or sciatica symptoms without proper diagnosis could create an irreversible medical condition that could have been preventable.  Especially when pain alleviation and correcting posture at the feet in “most cases” is the solution!  However, even with this being said, there is no guarantee as you age that your sciatica symptoms-back disorder “will not” become worse.  We are talking about pain prevention and proper anatomical alignment not to create, or worsen a back disorder pain condition.  Recall, 95% of all back problems can be corrected without surgery!  If you currently have sciatica you can greatly alleviate pain by using “Posture Control Insoles,” visit our home site or chronic pain center and click on the skeleton, postural, or foot image link to get the science behind the claim.

“Dr. Bernard Filner, MD, says, a significant number of people, including many of his patients, contemplate surgery because they hurt so badly – but most of the time, by using the Posture Control Insoles can alleviate the pain and avoid surgery.  Posture Control Insoles do what surgery and custom orthotics cannot do – provide the proper sensory feedback from your feet to your brain. Your feet play an integral role in maintaining a pain free posture, including proper curvature of the spine.  Modest changes in your posture provide the potential for complete relief of low-back pain. If you are in pain, even if you have tried custom orthotics without success, please try Posture Control Insoles before you try surgery, said Dr. Filner.”

The posture you place your body in at work is also critical in preventing short-long term repetitive muscles strains & sprains responsible for sciatica symptoms.  Although our main focus is posture correction at the feet to alleviate sciatica symptoms there are other stress forces at work that contribute to sciatica pain.  You’ll want to ensure your mattress has proper surface support as sleep posture is also very important.  If you toss and turn throughout the night and/or you never feel rested, or your back aches in the morning it may be time to start looking at a Posturepedic mattress or other similar posture manufactured mattresses.

The low back is also placed under stress while in resting positions such as office administration, or general lifting throughout the day, etc.  This is why ergonomic office work and good lifting posture regardless of job type also must be part of the overall good posture, pain alleviation plan.  As stated earlier, surgery should be the last option as 95% of all back pain candidates are not good prospects for surgery, but instead should be treated to correct posture alignment, including applied daily exercises.  Most back pain can be resolved without surgery if both doctors and patients are willing to try other treatments that basically help the back to heal itself (Dr. Richard Deyo, University of Washington, and Consumer Health Interactive Magazine).

Also read MAE Press Release, Jan 25, 2009, “Heal Back Pain with out Surgery – Embryonic Stem Cell Update!” This article can be found at our Chronic Pain Center  and visit our CleanGreen Wellness Wholesale Company.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET2009 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.