Sciatica is a neuromusculoskeletal medical condition characterized by a constant stabbing low back pain that will shoot/radiate down the leg and potentially into the foot and toes along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve bundle in the human body and can be as thick as your thumb in diameter; sciatic nerves are also some of the longest nerves in the body running from the low back down into the toes.
Sciatica symptoms follow this nerve pathway through the entire leg. Sciatica typically will only affect one leg but sometimes can cause symptoms radiating into both legs. The pain is worse when sitting but can be so sharp that the patient has difficulty standing or walking.
Most people consider sciatica a medical diagnosis, but sciatica should be considered a symptom of a more complicated medical condition. These underlying conditions include lumbar disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, and even arthritis. These conditions can all cause compression of the large sciatic nerve bundle, the compression of the sciatic nerve is what creates weakness, numbness, and difficulty moving the leg, foot, and toes of the affected limb.
To treat sciatica, we have to discover the underlying condition causing the sciatica. The nerve compression could be occurring in different locations along the nerve, it could be directly inside the spinal column, through the pelvic brim, or anywhere along the sciatic nerve. Chiropractors can use orthopedic testing to identify, not only where the nerve compression is taking place, but properly diagnose the underlying condition causing the symptoms. Once the problem is identified we can begin a specific treatment protocol to begin the recovery process. Results will vary based on the individual case but chiropractic care has been shown to improve sciatica symptoms.
Unfortunately preventing sciatica is not always possible, and once treated, does not guarantee it wont recur. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and exercising regularly to build strong core muscles play a key role in protecting your back and maintaining correct posture. This will prevent undue stress on the spine which may help prevent a number of spinal conditions including sciatica.