Sciatica is a common condition that brings patients into chiropractic offices. The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back down to the buttocks and the back of the leg. It is supplied by the nerves from L4-S3 (the lower back and nerves in the pelvis) nerve roots. These nerve roots gather into a large sciatic nerve and then, as the nerve goes down the leg, smaller nerves branch off to supply different parts of the thigh, leg and foot. Sciatica occurs when this nerve is irritated or has pressure placed on it. Sciatica may start for a variety of reasons. Lifting injuries, auto accidents and falls are just some of the events that may cause sciatica. Sometimes it may start from an unknown cause.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica commonly presents as lower back pain that travels down the buttocks and the back of the leg. It may be a burning pain with tingling and/or numbness. In severe cases, a person with sciatica may even lose strength in the muscles that receive their nerve supply from the sciatic nerve. Usually one leg is affected but, in some cases, both legs may be affected. Sciatica symptoms can be constant in some patients while others may have symptoms that come and go. Sometimes the symptoms will be positional (such as only when driving or when standing for an extended period). Some cases may resolve on their own, but others may stay present or worsen.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
When someone has sciatica, it is important to try to determine what caused the symptoms to start. The irritation or pressure placed on the sciatic nerve can come from different parts of the body. Tight muscles or spasms may cause sciatica symptoms. Misalignment, or subluxation, of the lumbar (lower back) vertebra or pelvis may also cause sciatic symptoms. A bulging or herniated intervertebral disc in the lumbar spine is another common cause of sciatica. A tumor could also be a possible cause of sciatica. Depending on the case x-rays or an MRI image of the area may be used to help find the cause of sciatica.
Sciatica and Chiropractic Care
When a patient comes to our chiropractic office with sciatica symptoms our goal is to determine what may be causing their symptoms. To do this a health history and chiropractic examination will be performed. If indicated, x-rays may also be taken of the spine. We then use this information to determine if we think chiropractic care may be able to help. Spinal adjustments, soft tissue work, and at-home exercises may be recommended if chiropractic care is started. If your chiropractor doesn’t think that chiropractic care can help, they will give you a recommendation of another provider to see. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact our office.