Sciatica is a radiating pain that travels from the lower back into the buttock, leg and even to the big toe.

Dr Bret WilsonThe condition results from inflammation due to compression or traction of the sciatic nerve. The nerve is comprised of several spinal nerve roots from the lumbar spine and provides sensory and motor nerve impulses to the leg. It is the longest and widest nerve in the body, approximately the diameter of your little finger at the widest.

Pain is the most common symptom, but it can cause numbness, burning, or even muscle weakness in some cases. The condition can involve the low back and leg, leg pain only, the entire tract of the nerve, or variable areas along the tract. The pain can range from mild to excruciating.

The most common cause of sciatica is an accumulation of wear and tear, micro stresses and strains to the lower back and hip region. The irritation accumulates over time until there is enough swelling and inflammation around the nerve roots of the nerve to cause symptoms. Often the patient will report no specific event to cause the onset of symptoms. The condition can also result from injury or trauma. Sciatica can have a variety of physical causes ranging from joint dysfunction in the lower back, disc bulge or herniation and abnormal muscle conditions. In rare cases, the condition can be due to a tumor or nerve disease.

People that experience low back and leg pain that persists more than a few days should seek evaluation by a physician. The doctor will take a health history and perform examinations to determine the cause of the sciatic condition. Initial evaluation will rule out red flags and the need for more advanced testing like x-ray or MRI. Most cases of sciatica (90% in some studies) resolve with conservative care within 6 weeks. Less than 5% of cases will be severe enough to warrant MRI or more invasive types of care like surgery. The determination of the cause is the best indicator for appropriate treatment or referral.

Chiropractic physicians are trained to evaluate, diagnose and treat the cause of sciatic nerve pain. Spinal manipulative therapy along with appropriate physical therapy and home care instruction has found to help many cases to resolve quickly. Conservative care will include use of ice, avoidance of bending positions and prolonged sitting, over the counter or prescribed anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy.

Sciatica can be a very painful and debilitating condition. The severity of the pain is not indicative of a dire outcome or the unavoidable need for surgery. The majority of cases respond well to chiropractic, physical therapy, exercises and activity modification. The majority of cases resolve within 4 to six weeks, and only a small percentage require advanced testing or surgery. Don’t let a pain in the butt keep you from your activities of daily living. Recognize the condition and get appropriate care to relieve the pain and restore you to normal function.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Bret Wilson

Dr. Bret Wilson wants you to move, play and live free from neck and back pain.  For more information about chiropractic, posture, exercise, and how to make better choices about your health visit our website  Find a chiropractor in your area to help you with safe and effective health care.