Sciatica is not a single diagnosis but rather a blanket medical term used to describe an entire set of symptoms. Sciatica usually refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your buttocks and down the back of each leg.
What are the symptoms of Sciatica?
The compression or irritation of the nerve root causes pain, often some numbness/tingling and in some cases weakness of the affected limb. It is usually only one side, but in rare cases both legs can be affected. While most cases involve low back pain, others may not.
What Causes of Sciatica?
Sciatica most commonly occurs due to compression or irritation of a spinal nerve due to:
- Herniated disc – A herniated disc may put pressure on a nearby nerve or causing an inflammatory response which irritates the nerve.
- Foraminal stenosis or spinal stenosis – A narrowing of the foramen that the nerve travels or exits through. This is often due to degeneration over the course of our lives.
- Spondylolisthesis – When one vertebra slips forward over an adjacent vertebra (often far less serious than it sounds). This can cause compression and often results in sciatica symptoms.
- Piriformis syndrome – Another cause of sciatica may be pressure placed on the sciatic nerve as it passes under the piriformis muscle in the buttock region, which will present very similarly to other causes of sciatica.
How Is Sciatica Treated?
After a thorough assessment by our chiropractors, a plan will be made for appropriate hands on treatment and rehabilitation for the specific cause of the sciatic symptoms. This will be aimed at improving spinal mobility, strength, endurance or postural neuromuscular control.
Activities to avoid and lifestyle choices will be discussed, as well as ways to keep you active and participating in your hobbies, activities or work.
X-ray or MRI imaging may be advised and referral to a specialist will always be considered, but in most cases sciatica can be improved conservatively, without the need for surgery.
Thankfully, most cases of sciatica resolve with conservative treatment within 4-12 weeks. For a more details overview of how sciatica is treated check out our blog on How to Treat Sciatica.