Sciatica, or impingement of the sciatic nerve, is characterized by pain originating in the lower back or buttock and often extending down the back of the leg and sometimes into the foot.

The characteristics of the symptoms vary greatly from one person to the next, and can range from a dull ache to sharp, debilitating pain. For some, the pain is marked by a burning sensation. For others, numbness and tingling accompany the pain.
Some of sciatica’s most common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the leg or buttock that worsens upon sitting
  • Pain that shoots down the leg
  • Numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, or trouble moving the leg or foot
  • A burning sensation down the leg
  • Pain primarily in one buttock
  • Sciatic nerve pain

    However sciatic nerve pain presents itself, it is a frustrating and sometimes incapacitating condition that can interfere greatly with participation in and enjoyment of life’s daily activities. Because sciatica is especially painful when seated, many sciatica sufferers have problems both at work and when relaxing at home, and struggle to find relief throughout their daily routine.

    Causes of Sciatica

    Sciatica is often misinterpreted as a diagnosis or condition in and of itself, but sciatica actually describes a set of symptoms, and not the root cause of the pain. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body, and it is the impairment or impingement of this nerve that causes sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica. The nerve also provides sensation and strength to the legs, which is why some experience muscle pain, numbness, and weakness as a result of sciatica. These symptoms are the result of something else that has gone wrong in the body, and to treat the sciatica, the root cause must be uncovered.

    Assessing sciatica

    The first thing that a chiropractor or medical doctor does when assessing sciatica is attempt to determine the cause of the sciatic nerve pain. It is only by determining what is impinging the nerve that a game plan for relieving that impingement, and therefore the pain, can be created.

    The most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is a herniated or slipped disc. Other common causes include:

  • Spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back)
  • Piriformis syndrome (a tightening or spasming of the piriformis muscle)
  • Degenerative disc disease (impacting the discs between the vertebrae)
  • Spndylolisthesis (which occurs when one vertebra slips forward over another vertebra)
  • Pregnancy (which adds pressure and strain on the spine)
  • Wear and tear on the lower spine (with age or due to excess weight or poor alignment)
  • Diagnosis

    The diagnosis is formed after a review of the patient’s medical history, present symptoms, and a physical and neurological exam. Additional testing, such as an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, may be ordered to better understand the issue. Chiropractic care may be performed independently, or may be a part of a broader treatment plan involving other doctors or alternative medicine practitioners.

    Chiropractic Care for Sciatica

    Chiropractic care is an ideal treatment modality for sciatica because it can directly address the root cause of the problem, and thereby both treat the cause and alleviate the symptoms.

    Chiropractic adjustments, or spinal manipulations, are at the center of the chiropractic method of care. During an adjustment, your chiropractor will use either their hands or a small instrument to apply a swift, controlled force to a joint of the spine.

    the nervous system

    The spinal column encases the nervous system, any improper alignment or slipped or herniated discs in the spine can lead to major problems that present across the body. In the case of sciatica, the sciatic nerve has been compromised due to the position of the spine or other imbalances or misalignments. Your chiropractor applies adjustments to your spine in order to restore the proper alignment of your vertebrae, thereby freeing your nervous system to function properly.

    In many cases, because the adjustments quickly take the pressure off of the sciatic nerve, patients find quick and effective relief of their sciatic pain. However, it is important to continue to get routine adjustments as you are retraining your muscles to allow the vertebrae to maintain their new alignment. Until your body fully settles into proper alignment, continuous treatment is necessary.