Despite popular belief, sciatica is not actually a medical condition—it’s a term used to describe any pain that irritates the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve begins from the nerve roots in the lower back and extends through the buttock area. It is the largest nerve in the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatic pain usually originates in the lower back or buttock and travels into one or both legs, though the sensation of pain can vary widely from person to person. Other common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain in the buttock or legs that gets worse while sitting
- Burning or tingling sensation down the leg
- Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatic nerve pain often varies in intensity and frequency depending on the cause of the pain. It is generally believed that sciatica is caused by pressure and irritation around the sciatic nerve. This irritation and pressure is usually the result of disc degeneration and protrusion.
The most common conditions known to contribute to sciatic nerve pain include:
- Herniated or bulging disc
- Pinched nerve
- Irritation of the nerve from an adjacent tumor, internal bleeding, or from infections in or around the lower back
- Spinal stenosis
How Is Sciatica Diagnosed?
Since there are so many disorders associated with the development of sciatica, your physician’s first job is usually to determine the cause. He or she will review your medical history and perform a physical exam. Additional diagnostic tests—like an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan—may be ordered to further define the cause of the patient’s sciatica.
How Is Sciatica Treated?
In many cases, sciatica pain goes away on its own with time and rest. However, for people who deal with severe and consistent flare-ups, the condition may need to be treated. Before surgery is even considered, it’s important to understand the benefits of nonsurgical treatments.
The main goal of chiropractic care is to find and treat the cause of the sciatic nerve pain. To do this, your physician may combine chiropractic adjustments and manipulations with procedures like spinal decompression and anti-inflammatory medications. Some noninvasive treatment methods may include:
- Massage therapy
- Nutritional therapy
- Electric muscle stimulation
- Physical therapy
Only a small percentage of people with sciatica will require surgery. It’s only when sciatica pain becomes so severe that it impedes your daily activities that surgery is considered. To learn more about sciatic nerve pain treatment—or to schedule a consultation—please contact our Pittsburgh chiropractic office today.