The term Sciatica refers to pain, numbness and occasionally
muscle weakness in the area supplied by the sciatic nerve, i.e.
hip, buttock, posterior thigh, calf and foot. The patient may
experience a crawling sensation over the affected area and an
inability to walk on his toes or heels due to muscle weakness.
There are many possible causes for sciatica, but the most
frequent cause has been found to be faulty alignment and
mechanics of the lower spine and pelvis. Such faulty
alignment serves to compress or irritate the sciatic nerve with
a resulting painful inflammation of the nerve. Faulty
spinal-pelvic alignment may result from a single fall, accident
or unusual exercise or such structural deficits may develop
gradually as part of an overall posture distortion pattern.
The top four ways the sciatic nerve is injured:
1. The nerve openings
between adjacent vertebrae in the lower back may be
partially occluded by a misaligned or subluxated vertebra.
Nerves which make up the sciatic nerve are compressed and
irritated as they pass through the partially occluded
2. A sacro-iliac
subluxation or distortion may exert a direct pressure on the
3. The deep muscles of
the buttock may be placed under unusual stress by a faulty
pelvic alignment. The stretched or even collapsed muscles
may squeeze and irritate the sciatic nerve as it passes
4. Disc Bulges/Herniation
Treatment for Sciatica:
Chiropractic treatment typically consists of physical therapy to
help reduce the muscle spasm and tightness, and the chiropractic
adjustment which helps restore normal spine and nerve function
to the affected areas. Also, ice therapy (cryotherapy) is used
to help reduce swelling. It is important in most cases to avoid
the use of heat therapy such as a heating pad on the lower back
as this causes increased swelling and eventually more pain.
The 24 vertebrae of your spine are separated from one another by
pads of cartilage called discs. These discs have a fairly tough
outer layer with a soft interior to cushion against the shocks
and strains experienced as you move and put various stresses on
your spine. The discs are subject to injury, disease, and
degeneration with use over time. Certain activities and types of
work increase the risk of discs being damaged or deteriorating.
When the soft interior material of a disc pushes out through a
tear or weakening in the outer covering, the disc is said to be
Herniated discs are also called protruding, bulging, ruptured,
prolapsed, slipped, or degenerated discs. There are fine
distinctions between these terms, but all really refer to a disc
that is no longer in its normal condition and/or position.
Herniated discs cause pain by impinging on (intruding upon,
irritating, and pinching) and even injuring nerves in the spinal
What are some of the typical symptoms of bulged/herniated
Most disc herniation takes place in the lower back (lumbar
spine). The second most common site of herniation is the neck
(cervical spine). A herniated lumbar disc may send pain shooting
down through your buttock and thigh into the back of your leg
(sciatica). Cervical disc herniation may cause pain in the
shoulder, arm, and hand. Herniated discs can cause muscle
weakness, make it hard to get up when you've been sitting or
lying down, cause pain when you strain to do something, even
when you cough or sneeze. They sometimes produce pain in the
lower right side of the abdomen. Herniated discs may also affect
nerves to the bladder and bowel, causing incontinence. This
symptom signals the need for immediate, emergency attention.
What can chiropractic do?
There is broad acceptance among health care professionals and
the public of the recommendation that the pain from herniated
discs be initially treated conservatively. That is, as long as
there are no signs (such as severe pain, numbness, or functional
impairment from nerve involvement) of the need for more invasive
treatment, two or three months of chiropractic care may be the
best choice before considering spinal surgery or shots of
analgesics (painkillers) in your back. Only a minority of disc
herniations turn out to require treatment as traumatic and
costly as hospitalization and surgery or with as many side
effects (especially for older people) as opioid analgesics and
muscle relaxants. Always consult with your Chiropractor before
opting for surgery for disc bulge/herniation.