What is sciatica?
First and foremost, sciatica is a symptom and not a diagnosis.
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve radiculopathy mostly occurring in just one lower extremity. Branches of the sciatic nerve begin in the lumbar spine, then travel through the muscles of the buttock and into the back of the thigh, terminating in the foot. The diagnosis of sciatica is characterised by what is causing the irritation of the sciatic nerve.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
Sciatica is primarily diagnosed with a thorough history and physical examination.
Some common pain variations associated with sciatic nerve pain:
- Occurs mostly in one leg.
- Begins in the lower back or buttock and travels down the back of the thigh and commonly into the lower leg and/or foot.
- Can be felt as a sharp pain, burning or searing sensation.
- Can also feel numbness, tingling or pins and needles down the leg.
What are the common causes of sciatica?
- Referred pain: comes from degeneration (damage) of spinal joints, ligaments and muscles of the lower spine.
- Neurogenic pain: occurs when a lower back nerve is compressed or irritated. The most common causes of this compression or irritation are –
- Disc bulge/herniation can touch the exiting spinal nerve and cause the symptoms of sciatica.
- Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal which causes a smaller space for the nerve to exit.
- Piriformis syndrome involves compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve exiting under or through the piriformis muscle.
How long does it take to get better?
The healing process takes time and varies from person to person depending on the cause of the sciatica episode. Depending on your individual case, duration of symptoms and history of your condition, it can take anywhere from a few days to months to experience relief, however with the appropriate conservative care, a full recovery time of 6-8 weeks is standard.
How can chiropractic help?
There is mounting evidence that chiropractic care is highly beneficial in addressing symptoms of sciatica. An accurate diagnosis of your sciatica symptoms is imperative in providing appropriate care. After your assessment and examination with us, we determine if our chiropractic care may be of benefit to your condition. We design an individual care plan tailored to your specific presentation with the aim to help restore appropriate spinal function, therefore focusing on the cause of your symptoms as opposed to your symptomatic presentation only.
Vlat. J, et. al. Sciatica. Best Practice and Research Clinical Rheumatology. 2010. Vol 24(2): 241-252
Hildreth. C, et. al. Sciatica. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009. Vol 302(2): 216
McMorland. G, et. al. Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010. Vol 33(8): 576–584.