Sciatica is a condition that gets its name from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the body. When this nerve becomes pinched, irritated or inflamed in the lower back, it can cause pain, numbness, weakness and tingling along its path through the buttocks and into the lower extremities. The sciatic nerve is a collection of nerves that originates beginning at the L4 level of the lumbar spine through the S3 level. The nerve branches off and innervates the hip joint as well as muscles of the lower back and extremities. The muscular branch also gives way to the tibial nerve (innervates the muscles of the lower extremities) and the common fibular nerve (innervates most of the muscles of the foot). The collection of nerves that combine to form the sciatic nerve are very sensitive. If there is any disc herniation at the levels of the spine that give way to the sciatic nerve, the bulging inner nucleus of the disc contains proteins that, when coming into contact with the nerves, will easily cause inflammation and irritation.
A Symptom of Another Form of Dysfunction
Symptoms of sciatic nerve dysfunction include weakness, tingling, numbness and pain into the legs and feet felt on one side, pain or a burning sensation into one side of the buttocks or lower extremities that may cause difficulty in standing or walking. Sciatica is more a symptom of another form of dysfunction of the lower spinal vertebrae. It is the result of irritation or compression of the nerve roots exiting the spine from a disc herniation, spinal degeneration or stenosis (narrowing). The severity of the symptoms of sciatica can range from severe and debilitating to mild and manageable. For mild to manageable severity, at-home care such as icing, rest and stretching may be enough to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. For more severe sciatic pain, non-surgical conservative intervention is generally required. Following a health history and physical examination as well as possible diagnostic imaging if an exam produces questionable results, a chiropractic physician will be able to discover the underlying condition that is causing the sciatica and build a treatment plan based on the diagnostic findings. Depending on the underlying cause, if appropriate, physical therapy exercises may be indicated as well as massage therapy, modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, heating and icing to the areas of inflammation and chiropractic manipulations. In most cases, the sciatic pain will begin to dissipate and function in the lower extremities will improve.
References Cited in this Article
See information about Chiropractic for Sciatica.