Sciatica is one of the most common conditions for which people seek chiropractic treatment – and no wonder, studies show that as many as 90% of patients say that they feel better after a Chiropractic adjustment for Sciatica – but here’s the funny thing about Sciatica.. it actually isn’t really a “thing”!
What is Sciatica?
So, there’s no such thing as Sciatica? Not quite – but it’s more complex than we often think. The term Sciatica does not actually denote a condition, disorder, or diagnosis in and of itself – in fact, saying that you suffer from “Sciatica” gives a Chiropractor (or anyone else for that matter) a general idea of what hurts and roughly where, but in truth that’s about all.
Sciatica pain, in general, can be described as dull, achy, sharp, or shooting pain in the lower back and hip, buttock, and leg on one side of the body. Some may also experience burning, numbness, or tingling sensations – and in rarer cases, the condition may be painful (or just uncomfortable) enough to make basic movement like getting up and down or walking feel like a challenge.
When someone says they “have sciatica,” what they therefore really have is a very specific set of symptoms hinting at an underlying condition – sometimes sciatic pain presents alongside or close to an episode or general back pain, or an injury – in which case most people rightly figure out that the spine is part of the problem – but sciatica can also occur on its own, seemingly without obvious cause.
What’s the real issue then?
Sciatica takes its name from the Sciatic nerve – it’s a major nerve which runs all the way down the leg and touches… well, all of those places that hurt! The two sciatic nerves (or, more specifically, nerve bundles -one in each leg) are the longest nerves in the body, and for that reason, there are lots of opportunities for either one to become irritated – similarly, there are lots of areas in which you can experience pain as a result.
The key role of the Sciatic nerve is to provide the sensation and motor fibres that allow you to stand up, walk and run – hence why these motions are often impacted when Sciatica strikes.
The condition we know as Sciatica is so named because all the top causes of sciatica are linked to the irritation, compression, or impingement of these sciatic nerves. When a nerve is compressed or irritated it can become inflamed or painful – the actual cause of that irritation could be a wide variety of issues.
What causes Sciatic nerve irritation?
Herniated spinal discs, bone spurs, or ligament overgrowth are all common issues which can irritate the sciatic nerve leading to the pain that we know as “Sciatica”. These kinds of issues are slightly more common as we age, but can happen to all of us and often impact young people as well as older people. Critically, these conditions are all slowly progressive – meaning they start as very small issues and become painful over time – often a long time, perhaps even years.
One of the more obvious causes – and the one which people do tend to identify correctly themselves – is injury. Sciatica isn’t often a primary complaint after a trip or fall (although it can be) rather it can often crop up weeks or months later, perhaps as a result of swelling or a minor spinal issue such as subluxation, a condition in which the spinal vertebra are not in proper alignment.
Of course, natural changes occur as we age, and in those over 60, it’s common to see sciatic pain related to the pressure of gravity or stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column) which can lead to the development of compressed or “pinched” nerves and sciatic pain.
Can I protect against Sciatica?
We’re not helpless when it comes to sciatica – common issues such as poor posture, lack of proper warm-up and cool-down when exercising or simply failing to get exercise at all can all put us at greater risk of sciatica. Regular exercise, stretching and attention to good posture throughout the day goes a long way to reducing the chances you’ll experience sciatica – If your lifestyle makes this difficult., however, Chiropractic can be an excellent supportive treatment which can counteract some of the strain put on your body by a less then optimum lifestyle.
While there isn’t much you can do if you’re unlucky enough to suffer an injury, it’s in your best interests to see a Chiropractor or other spinal professional before any painful complaints arise – remember, sciatica often occurs as a result of an underlying condition which wasn’t properly addressed, so early treatment of an injury can very often prevent a painful problem from developing later.
Incidentally, this is why Chiropractic maintenance care can help with sciatica prevention – in truth, it isn’t really preventing Sciatica directly, rather, you’re keeping the spine and surrounding musculature in good condition and alignment, therefore addressing those issues most likely to cause sciatica in the first place.
Need help with Sciatica?
Sciatica can be a real pain in the leg, hip, buttocks .. sometimes even the foot – if you’re struggling with Sciatica don’t despair – at Complete Chiropractic we’ve helped hundreds of people overcome Sciatica, and most importantly, stop it from coming back!
 Outcomes of Patients with Symptomatic Herniations Receiving Spinal Therapy. JMPT. 2014.
Maintained Spinal Manipulation Therapy for Low Back Pain. SPINE. 2011.