So what exactly is sciatica and what should you do about it?
There are frequently patients coming into our office that suffer from lower back pain that travels down into their legs. While we often hear a wide variety of self diagnosis’s, this is generally the presentation for sciatic neuralgia, or just sciatica.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from your pelvis through your hip area and down each leg. The sciatic nerve branches into smaller nerves as it travels down the legs providing feeling to your thighs, legs, and feet as well as controlling many of the muscles in your lower legs. The term sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of this nerve.
Sciatica is actually a sign that you have an underlying problem putting pressure on the nerve roots in your lower back or the sciatic nerve itself further downstream. The most common cause of this nerve compression is a bulging or herniated lumbar disc. Piriformis syndrome is another common cause of sciatica where the piriformis muscle that lies directly over the sciatic nerve becomes overly tight. This puts pressure directly on the sciatic nerve and can be caused by sitting on a wallet, long periods of driving, or running with an abnormal gait pattern.
Sciatica may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected leg, often starting gradually and intensifying over time.
The vast majority of the time, sciatic pain can be relieved through a combination of functional exercises, Active Release Technique of the piriformis muscle and chiropractic adjustments. This approach will help to both remove the causes of inflammation to the nerve while also restoring normal function to the body in order to prevent further occurrences of sciatica.