What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a common condition with some experts predicting that up to 40% of people will experience it at some point in their life. Sciatica is the name given to any condition that causes irritation of the long sciatic nerve that runs down the back of your leg. When this nerve becomes inflamed or impinged, a range of symptoms from mild to severe may occur. The sciatic nerve controls several muscles in the leg as well as supplying sensation to the foot and leg. Sciatica is not a condition as such but a symptom of another problem affecting the sciatic nerve leading to leg pain.
Facts About Sciatica
- The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body
- There are many causes for sciatica, the most common being a bulging disc in the lumbar spine
- Sciatica is a symptom of another problem in the lower back or pelvis, not a condition
- The best way to treat sciatica is to get a thorough elevation to determine what is causing the sciatic symptoms and then develop a treatment plan based on this diagnosis
Symptoms of Sciatica
The main symptom of sciatica is shooting pain down the back of the leg, buttock and lower back. The pain can range from a dull ache to shooting pain down the leg and into the feet. Pins and needles are another common symptom of sciatica. The pain can be made worse after long periods of sitting.
Causes of Sciatica
There are many problems that can contribute to sciatica. Below are some of the main conditions that can cause leg pain.
Lumbar disc bulge
A bulged disc in the lumbar spine can sometimes trap the nerves as they exit the spinal canal and cause pain to radiate along the nerve. This type of injury can be very painful and debilitating. The symptoms for a lumbar disc bulge often include acute lower back pain with pain shooting down the leg and possible pins and needles into the leg as well.
The piriformis is a small muscle in the pelvis that passes directly above the sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome is the name given to a condition where the piriformis muscle in the pelvis becomes very tight and inflamed, causing the sciatic nerve to become irritated and send pain down the back of the leg. The symptoms for this condition include dull ache in the buttock, tightness in the hips and sciatica.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint is the large joint in the pelvis connecting the hip bone to the sacrum. This joint can become restricted and inflamed which puts pressure on the surrounding glute muscles and piriformis. When this joint becomes locked up it can cause pain to refer into the back of the leg. The symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction tend to be a dull ache in either the left or right side of the lower back with a dull ache referring into the leg.
Sciatica Relief & Treatment
Due to the wide range of conditions that can lead to sciatica the most important part of treatment is getting the correct diagnosis and then developing a treatment plan based on the initial diagnosis. There are a range of practitioners who can help with an accurate diagnosis for sciatica such as chiropractors, physios or medical doctors. Once the cause of your sciatica has been determined, treatment can begin. In most cases chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue work such as dry needling, trigger point and stretching alongside postural changes can make a big difference. In more severe cases involving a lumbar disc injury more specialised medical treatment may be required.
We hope that this post has helped you to understand what sciatica is. If you would like help with sciatica, feel free to contact our Brisbane chiropractic clinic. Miki can provide a thorough and diagnosis and assist with treatment or appropriate referral if necessary. Please be in touch for more information or booking inquiries!