The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body with two branches that extend from the lower back down each leg. The nerve provides sensations in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. Sometimes, the nerve can become irritated at the location where it exits the spine, causing a painful condition called sciatica. Sciatica can cause pain, numbness, tingling or burning sensations, and muscle weakness in the lower back or in the buttock and leg. One or both branches of the nerve can be affected.
The most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is a slipped or herniated disc. Normally, discs remain located between the spine bones or vertebrae, providing shock absorption and promoting pain-free flexibility in the back. When a disc slips out of place due to trauma, back strain or overuse injuries, it can press on the sciatic nerve and cause irritation and surrounding inflammation. If the disc bursts, the gel-like interior can leak and irritate surrounding tissues as well. Sometimes, sciatica can be caused by arthritis or other degenerative spine diseases. Standing or sitting for long periods of time, being overweight or wearing ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to spinal alignment problems that can cause sciatica.
Because sciatica involves the bones of the spine and the nerves, chiropractic care can be very effective in helping patients relieve symptoms and even prevent the condition from recurring. Before any treatment is administered, the spine will be carefully evaluated to determine what's causing the symptoms. In a few cases, diagnostic imaging like x-rays or MRI may be performed to obtain detailed information about the spine. In most cases, sciatica can be treated with a spinal adjustment to realign the spine and help the disc move back into its normal position. Therapeutic massage and gentle therapeutic exercise can also help by reducing inflammation and promoting circulation so symptoms can be relieved. Spinal adjustments can also be very useful in “unblocking” the sciatic nerve pathway so pain, numbness, and related sensations can be prevented.