Sciatica is a term that describes pain that is generated by the irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower back and pelvis. If anyone has suffered from sciatica, they understand how severe the pain can be and how disruptive it can be to the daily life.

The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and goes down the back of the leg to the foot. In fact, it is the longest nerve in the body and hence, when it is irritated, it can give you severe pain.

Here is a list of some the symptoms that people may be experiencing with sciatica:

  • sharp, shooting pain down the back of the leg
  • pins and needles down the thighs and leg
  • numbness in the leg or foot
  • weakness in leg muscles
  • burning, prickling sensations
  • sharp pain in low back and leg

What causes the sciatic nerve to get irritated?

1.Often where leg pain is worse than the low back pain then disc involvement may be the cause.

  • Disc disease. When disc damage, such as disc bulging, disc herniation or sequestration occurs, this can place direct pressure on the nerves exiting the spine and cause sciatica
  • Disc degeneration. In these cases the narrowed disc, with associated degenerative spur development can cause pressure on the nerves or inflame the nerves, leading to sciatica.

In these cases the chiropractor may find that nerve tests are positive, such as reflexes, muscle strength skin sensation. Depending on the severity of the case, the chiropractor may need to refer out for MRI or CT imaging to assist in the diagnosis.

2.When low back pain is present and leg pain is more painful and there are less sensations such ‘pins and needles’ and numbness then the problem may be due to altered spinal/pelvic joint function.

Nerve tests are less likely to be positive and chiropractors can often help by improving the spinal function and neuromuscular control of the area.

The video goes through:

1. Postures to avoid

Sitting for prolonged periods of time often aggravate the sciatic nerve as this posture stretches the nerve. Sit for no longer than 30 minutes at a time and if you have an office job, get out at lunchtime and go for a walk. Avoid sitting cross legged.

2. A stretch to help relieve the symptoms-  Figure 4

Lie on the floor on your back. If you have trouble getting back up, then try this stretch on the bed. Bend both knees up. Place the affected foot on the opposite knee. You should feel a slight stretch in the bottom area. If this provides a stretch, then you can hold this position for 30 seconds. To increase the stretch you can bring the foot on the ground closer to your bottom. This will increase the stretch. A further stretch will be to pull the bent leg up towards your chest. These stretches should not be causing severe pain, only a stretch. If they do cause pain, then stop and see your practitioner.

3. Mindful meditation

Finding a quiet spot to lie down and be comfortable. Place a small pillow under your knees if you are lying on the floor. Focus on your breath, in and out as you ask all your body parts to relax into the floor. Starting with your feet and finishing up at the head. If you are aware of the pain in your back and leg, then focus your attention on that area and imagine that pain dissolving. Some people find that this mindfulness helps to reduce the pain.

If the sciatic pain does not resolve with these suggestions, then a chiropractic visit may be warranted to determine the cause of the sciatica.