The Causes, Symptoms + Treatment Options for Sciatica

sciIf you’ve ever had pain radiate from your low back, through your hips, and down one leg, you may have experienced sciatica.

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve runs down the length of each leg, starting in your low back and ending at the heels of your feet.

Sciatica is a term used to describe the pain caused by irritation of that nerve. You may find that are a variety of names for it, including lumbosacral radicular syndrome, discogenic sciatica, nerve root pain, and nerve root entrapment, but sciatica is the most common term.

How is sciatica different?

Sciatica is different from low back pain in that it results from the sciatic nerve, rather than the spine. ‘

This nerve serves an important function, affecting the hamstrings, calf muscles, lower leg muscles, and some foot muscles. In many cases, the pain gets worse with twisting, bending, sneezing or coughing.

Causes of sciatic pain

Researchers estimate that 90 per cent of sciatic pain cases are caused by a herniated disc where the nerve root is compressed. This can occur as a result of an injury or age-related wear and tear. Other possible causes include lumbar stenosis and piriformis syndrome.

Common symptoms of sciatica

Patients most often complain about pain radiating down the back of their leg, reducing their mobility. “Leg pain from true sciatica can also be mistaken for many other medical conditions so please consult your chiropractor who has the most experience in this area,” explains Pickering chiropractor Dr. John Noble.

Who’s most at risk?

While more research is needed to determine the exact incidence and prevalence of sciatica, it’s estimated that five to 10 per cent of patients with low back pain have it,  and 10 to 40 per cent of people experience it in their lifetime.

There are certain risk factors that increase the chance of developing sciatica, including age, height, mental stress and cigarette smoking. In addition, certain occupations are predisposed to sciatic nerve pain, including machine operators and truck drivers.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

When a patient complains of pain radiating down their leg, a chiropractor will typically conduct a full history and physical examination to determine whether the sciatic nerve is to blame. Chiropractors often work as part of a patient’s health care team. If there are red flags present – such as if Cauda Equina syndrome is suspected – the chiropractor will recommend advanced imaging to determine if surgery should be considered.

Treatment options for sciatica

There are a variety of treatments that chiropractors can offer, including recommendations on lifestyle changes, including:

  • Physical activity
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal manipulation

Home treatment for sciatica

Talk to your chiropractor to ensure you are doing everything you can to improve your condition at home. He or she may recommend one or more of the following:

  • Use hot and cold packs for comfort
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods
  • Practice good posture
  • Improve your core strength through exercise
  • Gently stretch out your lower back and hamstrings
  • Take a walk regularly, go swimming, or try aqua fitness
  • Use the proper technique when lifting heavy objects

How can you prevent sciatica?

“Core strength is one of the most important factors in preventing sciatica,” says Ajax chiropractor Dr. John Noble. You can reduce the chances of developing sciatica by exercising regularly and paying attention to your posture. Try the following exercises if you’re looking for inspiration, but the most important thing is to find an activity you enjoy:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Strength training
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Pilates

To learn more about how chiropractic care and massage therapy can help you manage your sciatic pain, contact the Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage Therapy Clinic at 905-427-3202 to book a consultation with a member of our wellness team.