Sciatica is a painful condition characterized by irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is a large nerve that originates in the lower back, running through the buttock and down the leg. The word “sciatica” is actually a catch-all term that refers to pain in the legs and lower back. It’s not actually a physical condition in the strictest sense, but rather a set of symptoms describing a type of radiating pain that travels down the leg from an irritated or pinched sciatic nerve. This pain can be accompanied by tingling, burning, numbness and weakness of the legs.
The most common cause of Sciatica is a misaligned lower spine that is pinching the root of the sciatic nerve. This may be caused when the nerve becomes pinched between the different vertebrae of the spine. Sometimes this condition can be caused by a slipped disk. The pain is simply the result of the body’s largest nerve responding to pressure, injury or muscle imbalance. Sciatica may also be caused by a contracture of the piriformis, which is a muscle deep in the buttocks, as well as by tumors impinging on the spinal cord or the nerve roots. This would be characterized by pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower extremities, while possibly affecting only one side of the leg and/or buttock.
Sciatica is typically diagnosed with a look at the patient’s medical history and a physical exam. It’s often diagnosed and treated by a spine specialist or a chiropractor. If left undiagnosed, it can become a debilitating condition that may severely hinder quality of life, while it persists. Sciatica may be sudden or insidious in onset and has been known to worsen over time. It’s also been linked to various non-spinal conditions and is more common in people between 30 and 50 years of age.
Treatment options for sciatica will vary somewhat, depending on the severity of each case. In most cases, a series of chiropractic adjustments will be required to return the affected vertebra to a more natural position, reducing pressure on the nerve. Occasionally, the use of ultrasound and even ice may be needed. Massage therapy can also help reduce some of the pain related to muscle spasms and is frequently included in treatment.
Combining the required adjustments with physical therapy has proven to be very successful in treating most cases of sciatica. The duration of treatment can vary significantly from one patient to another. Some people respond very fast, while others may require more time to recover. How quickly someone recovers depends more on the condition of the disc or joints that the chiropractor has to work on.
Sciatica can be a very frightening experience, especially if you don’t realize what’s actually going on. Remember that the longer that you go without treatment, the longer it will take to get better. Once you get started with treatment, you may be surprised to find out that it takes less time to fix the problem than it did to create it.