Sciatica describes persistent pain felt along the
sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down
through the buttock, and into the lower leg. The sciatic
nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body,
running from the lower back through the buttocks and
down the back of each leg. It controls the muscles of
the lower leg and provides sensation to the thighs,
legs, and the soles of the feet.
Although sciatica is a relatively common form of
low-back and leg pain, the true meaning of the term is
often misunderstood. Sciatica is actually a set of
symptomsónot a diagnosis for what is irritating the
nerve root and causing the pain.
Sciatica occurs most frequently in people between the
ages of 30 and 50 years old. Most often, it tends to
develop as a result of general wear and tear on the
structures of the lower spine, not as a result of
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The most common symptom associated with sciatica is pain
that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, from
the lower back and down one leg; however, symptoms can
vary widely depending on where the sciatic nerve is
affected. Some may experience a mild tingling, a dull
ache, or even a burning sensation, typically on one side
of the body.
Some patients also report:
- A pins-and-needles sensation, most often in the
toes or foot
- Numbness or muscle weakness in the affected leg
Pain from sciatica often begins slowly, gradually
intensifying over time. In addition, the pain can worsen
after prolonged sitting, sneezing, coughing, bending, or
other sudden movements.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Dr. Conboy will begin by taking a complete patient
history. Youíll be asked to describe your pain and to
explain when the pain began, and what activities lessen
or intensify the pain. Forming a diagnosis will also
require a physical and neurological exam, in which Dr.
Conboy will pay special attention to your spine and
legs. You may be asked to perform some basic activities
that will test your sensory and muscle strength, as well
as your reflexes. For example, you may be asked to lie
on an examination table and lift your legs straight in
the air, one at a time.
In some cases, Dr. Conboy may recommend diagnostic
imaging, such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Diagnostic
imaging may be used to rule out a more serious
condition, such as a tumor or infection, and can be used
when patients with severe symptoms fail to respond to
six to eight weeks of conservative treatment.
What are my treatment options?
For most people, sciatica responds very well to
conservative care, including chiropractic. Keeping in
mind that sciatica is a symptom and not a stand-alone
medical condition, treatment plans will often vary
depending on the underlying cause of the problem.
Chiropractic offers a non-invasive (non-surgical),
drug-free treatment option. The goal of chiropractic
care is to restore spinal movement, thereby improving
function while decreasing pain and inflammation.
Depending on the cause of the sciatica, a chiropractic
treatment plan may cover several different treatment
methods, including but not limited to spinal
adjustments, ice/heat therapy, ultrasound, TENS, and
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
While itís not always possible to prevent sciatica,
consider these suggestions to help protect your back and
improve your spinal health.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain proper posture
- Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest
- If you smoke, seek help to quit
- Use good body mechanics when lifting
Source: The American Chiropractic