Sciatica is a term used to describe pain that originates from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is a bundle of nerves that start in the low back, travel through the hip, and eventually branch off into smaller nerves down in the foot. Nerves are like electrical wires in the body that allow you to contract muscles, experience pain, and feel touch.
The sciatic nerve is the “highway” that connects the spinal cord to the leg. Because the sciatic nerve is so long, it travels through high pressure areas, which causes it to be prone to injury. Any direct pressure to the nerve can and will cause excruciating pain. This direct pressure can be as a result of a disc bulge, disc herniation, muscle entrapment (tight muscle pressing on the nerve), osseous stenosis (overgrown bones), pregnancy, or mechanical pressure such as sitting on a wallet. With this direct pressure comes swelling, irritation, and pain. If the pressure is severe enough and occurs over a long enough period of time you run the risk of permanently damaging the nerve.
Typically when someone experiences sciatic pain it starts in either the low back or hip, and feels like an sharp, shocking pain down the leg. The person may also experience numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the leg as the condition worsens. These symptoms make it difficult to stand or sit for extended periods, walk, exercise, or stand up straight.
Each case of sciatic pain can is different. Diagnosis of the cause of your sciatic pain will determine your treatment options. Chiropractors can treat moderate to severe sciatica that has not progressed to numbness and muscle weakness of the leg and foot. If you are in the early stages of sciatic pain, chiropractors can use a combination of stretching, deep tissue muscle work, (similar to massage), spinal manipulation, and exercises. These methods are all conservative approaches that give the body the best chance to recover naturally without invasive procedures or surgery. If sciatica symptoms persist or worsen, it is time to see a neurological specialist.