The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your lumbar spine, pelvis, down the buttocks and into each leg. The sciatic nerve branches into smaller nerves as it travels down the legs providing feeling to your thighs, legs and feet, as well as controlling the muscles in your lower legs. The term sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of this nerve.
What causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is actually a sign that you have an underlying problem putting pressure on a nerve in your lower back. The cause of this nerve compression can be subluxation, a bulging or herniated lumbar disc, or a muscle spasm of a buttock muscle called the piriformis muscle. If the piriformis muscle becomes tight or if you have a spasm in this muscle, it puts pressure directly on the sciatic nerve.
How do I know if I have sciatica?
Pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg is the hallmark of sciatica. Sciatica may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected leg. This pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Sometimes it may feel like a jolt or electric shock. Sciatic pain often starts gradually and intensifies over time. It’s likely to be worse when you sit, cough or sneeze.
How is Sciatica Treated?
The vast majority of the time, sciatic pain can be relieved through chiropractic care and a combination of stretches, deep tissue massage of the piriformis muscle, and electrical muscle stimulation and/or ultrasound therapy. Occasionally, in cases where chronic spasm of the lower back or piriformis muscles is causing the sciatic pain, it may be necessary to do a procedure called a trigger point injection, where a medical pain specialist injects a small amount of anesthetic directly into a spasmed muscle to break the spasm cycle. Sometimes the sciatic pain is caused by herniated disc that requires surgery. Our office encourages you to utilize conservative treatment methods before jumping into surgery. If conservative methods do not work, surgery will always be available. However, once surgery is performed, other options are very limited.