Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed, irritated, or inflamed and is associated with pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in the hip, buttock, leg, calf, and foot. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest of all the body’s nerves. It runs from the spinal column near the pelvis down each leg and can be as wide as your thumb. Each sciatic nerve is made up of five smaller nerves that branch into the thigh, knee, calf, ankle, and foot.
Sciatica is most commonly a result of a misaligned lower spine that is irritating the root of the sciatic nerve. This ‘subluxation’ can apply a good deal of pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause severe pain. A faulty pelvic alignment could put the glutealmuscles under duress and the sciatic nerve will be irritated as it passes through the buttocks. A slipped or herniated disc is another cause of sciatica. Less commonly noted causes would include arthritis, tumours, diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and any degeneration as a result from long-term stress on the lower back. Standing, sitting, walking, running, heavy lifting, bending, twisting, or even sneezing can bring on symptoms.
Sciatica symptoms are often preceded for a few weeks by lower back pain. Eventually the leg pain becomes worse than the back pain. Pain can either be dull and aching or can be a shooting pain down the leg all the way to the toes. This pain can last for several days or weeks or it can subside for even a few hours. However, someone who has had sciatica for a long period of time will find that the pain localizes in the buttock and thigh. In severe cases it can damage nerves and reflexes or cause the calf muscle to deteriorate. Occasionally, paresthesia and weakened bladder function can accompany sciatica. If ever the sciatica is accompanied by a full loss of bowel or bladder control, then an ambulance should be called immediately.
Many times people with sciatica wait until the pain becomes unbearable before they contact the chiropractor. Waiting can cause long-term damage. It is important that you contact your chiropractor when the pain originally begins. A number of sciatica treatments can be prescribed (that don’t include surgery or medications) to help with your sciatica. The first thing your chiropractor will do is review your complete medical history to determine when the problem began and the possible causes. Then a complete chiropractic exam is performed, and x-rays may be taken. Your chiropractor will review and discuss the results with you and make recommendations for sciatica treatment.