Often misunderstood to be a diagnosis, sciatica is actually the term for a collection of symptoms, the most pronounced of which is low back pain accentuated with radiating pain that extends through the buttocks and down into the leg. It is one of the most common forms of low back pain and, as such, is treated effectively by chiropractors.
Sciatica gets its name from the sciatic nerve, which branches out from the lower part of the lumbar spine and travels down the entire back side of each leg to the foot and into the toes. Being comprised of a number of spinal nerve roots, the left and right sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in the human body. Either the compression or the stretching of the sciatic nerve (or the associated nerve roots) is the most common cause of sciatica, and this can occur as a result of a number of different conditions.
The pain that occurs with sciatica is the single most important factor in differentiating it from other kinds of low back pain. Although the pain may begin in the lower back as a typical dull ache, sciatica is felt further down into the buttocks, the back of the thigh, the lower leg, and even into the foot itself. Because the left and right sciatic nerves are seldom affected at the same time, radiating pain that occurs in only one leg can be a helpful indicator that someone is experiencing sciatic nerve irritation.
Sciatic pain is often described as a shooting pain – like electricity or burning fire – rather than a dull ache. A tingling or prickling feeling may also occur, often accompanied by weakness in the leg and/or numbness, just as when the leg ‘falls asleep’ after crossing your legs at the knees for too long. A combination of pain and weakness can also be felt in the same leg. Sufferers of sciatica usually report that their pain tends to be better when they are lying down or walking and worse when sitting or standing still.
The level of pain experienced in sciatica can range from moderate discomfort to severe pain, depending on the nature and severity of the underlying condition. In the worst cases, the degree of shooting pain or weakness in the leg may prevent movement altogether. The frequency of symptoms may also vary, from only feeling it occasionally to always being there.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it would be wise to arrange a visit to your chiropractor. They can examine you properly to determine if you do have sciatica, what the underlying cause is, and the appropriate treatment options for your case. Leaving a condition untreated often leads to a worsening of symptoms, so an early diagnosis obviously saves a lot of aggravation, pain, and money in the long run.