“Doc, I’ve got sciatica,” said one of my regulars last week.
“What are your symptoms,” I asked.
“Well, I have an achy pain in my left buttock, and when it gets really bad I get a sharp, shooting pain that goes from the left side of my low back all the way to my calf on the same side.”
“Yes, it sounds like you may have sciatica. Good news! Chiropractic care can help.” Let’s investigate further…
First, what is the sciatic nerve? The sciatic nerve is formed by five individual nerve roots that exit the lumbar spine (low back) and the sacrum. These nerve roots come together to form the sciatic nerve in the buttocks. From here, the sciatic nerve travels all the way down to the lower leg where it branches into smaller nerves that provide innervation (more on this later) to the foot and toes. This is the largest diameter and longest nerve in the human body. Two legs = two sciatic nerves.
Next, what does the sciatic nerve do? Remember that technical term I used earlier called innervation? Innervation is the supply of nerve fibers or nerve impulses to a particular part of the body. The job of all of our nerves is to provide signals for muscle groups to move and/or provide sensory information to our brain. For example, if you stub your toe trying to navigate your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the sensory nerve fibers tell the brain “ouch” and the motor nerve fibers tell us to hop up and down on one leg grasping at your newly swollen appendage. So, your sciatic nerve and all of its branches supply sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes to your legs and feet.
We use the term sciatica to describe a symptom or group of symptoms rather than describing the cause of the problem. The symptoms of sciatica are typically one sided and include sharp, shooting pain that extends from the back or buttock to the thigh, lower leg, or foot; tingling or numbness in the thigh, lower leg, or foot; and/or weakness of the muscles in the legs or feet.
In order to effectively treat an individual suffering from sciatica symptoms, it is important to first determine the cause of the problem. There are a number of causes for these symptoms that we commonly refer to as sciatica. These include:
- Narrowing of the spinal canal (a.k.a. Spinal Stenosis) where the lumbar spinal nerves travel through the spine
- Narrowing of the channels (a.k.a. Foraminal Stenosis) where the nerves exit the spinal canal in the lower lumbar spine
- A bulging or herniating disk in the lumbar spine compressing or irritating a nerve that exits from the lower lumbar spine
- Degenerative disk disease resulting in the compression or irritation of a lower lumbar spinal nerve
- A dysfunctional muscle or group of muscles in your buttock that compresses or irritates the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica pain can be resolved with chiropractic care. At our State College, PA chiropractic office, we will thoroughly evaluate your complaint and make recommendations for care based on the scientific guidelines that support chiropractic treatment. There are many treatment options available at our office. Your treatment may include heat, muscle stimulation, myofascial release, or stretching to ease muscle tension in your lower back and buttocks. Your treatment will also include spinal manipulation, which has been shown to decrease pain and increase range of motion.
Don’t suffer needlessly. Call today or click here to schedule your free consultation at our State College chiropractic office.