Understanding and Treating Sciatica Pain

Sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back to the buttocks and down one leg due to compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body – it starts in the low back and runs down the back of each leg. Compression or irritation to any part of this nerve can cause discomfort that can be felt from the low back all the way down to the foot. About 10% of people with low back pain will also have sciatic nerve irritation.


So, how do you know if what you’re dealing with is truly sciatica?

  1. Pain – most people describe sciatic nerve pain as burning pain that radiates down into the back of the leg. Pain could be made worse when coughing, sneezing, or bending over.
  2. Tingling – a pins and needles feeling in the glutes or down the backs of the legs
  3. Numbness – difference in sensation on the skin on your back or down your leg
  4. Muscle weakness – weakness to the glutes or hamstring muscles, which are powered by branches of the sciatic nerve

If you have any combination of these symptoms, it may indicate that you are experiencing sciatica. Proper evaluation is required to determine the cause of sciatica which includes a physical examination where specific orthopedic and neurological testing is done to rule-in or rule-out sciatica.


Treatment for sciatica normally follows a conservative approach, focused on identifying the underlying cause of sciatica, rather than just focusing on the pain. Most cases of sciatica can be effectively treated with through chiropractic care. This includes chiropractic adjustments to mobilize the joints in the low back where the sciatic nerve originates, working on the involved muscles which can entrap or impinge upon the sciatic nerve (stretching, trigger point release, etc.), and the sciatic nerve with a technique known as nerve flossing. By focusing on the affected joints, muscles, and nerves, sciatica can be resolved. A focus should then shift to preventative style treatment including chiropractic maintenance and home exercises for core stability. By being proactive, rather than reactive, can help those with a history of sciatica from being plagued by pain and symptoms related to sciatica in the future.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with sciatica, it’s important to have a proper examination done to determine the cause of your symptoms, including orthopedic and neurologic testing, as well as a spinal examination. Once the root cause has been identified, the best course of treatment can be determined. At Chiropractic Health and Wellness, our doctors can help identify the cause of your sciatica and can help not only relieve your symptoms but help you re-establish proper function and decrease the risk of recurring bouts of sciatica. Schedule an appointment today!

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