Sciatica (from the Greek “ischiadikos” which means “subject to trouble in the hips or loins“) is a specific type of pain which can be felt going down the leg from the back.
Sciatica usually presents over a period of time and can take a couple of months to resolve itself. It can also present as hamstring or calf tightness that can confuse the diagnosis as it can appear as though it is a muscle strain.
Sciatic pain can be a mild to annoying ache to totally intolerable depending on the cause and severity and is often caused by disc problems.
Approximately 30 to 40% of 25 to 45 year olds have a disc bulge that has no symptoms (is asymptomatic). This is because the disc tears from the centre out and the inner two thirds of the disc are not innervated (supplied with nerves) so people are not aware of the damage. This process distorts and weakens the rest of the disc.
The sciatic nerve stems from the lower part of the spine and sacrum on either side, and travels down each leg. It supplies the power to muscles in the back of the thigh, knee and calf, as well as sensation down the back of the leg and sole of the foot. Pain in the low back or down the front of the thigh should not be labelled as sciatica.
Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
- Pain that is worse when sitting
- Burning or tingling down the leg (vs. a dull ache)
- Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
- A constant pain on one side of the rear
- A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
Overall, the majority of episodes of sciatica pain heal within a six to twelve week time span.
A full program of sciatica chiropractic treatment and exercise can be pursued in order to alleviate pain and prevent or minimize any ongoing sciatic pain.