The term “sciatica” is used to describe symptoms which travel down into the leg. Most of the time the patient describes a “tingling, numbness or weakness” which may start in the low back and travel through the buttocks and down the back of the leg following the course of the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is not a formal diagnosis but the term is used to describe this characteristic symptom of leg pain.
What causes sciatic pain?
The causes of sciatica could be a herniated disc in the lumber spine, “wear and tear” or degeneration of the shock absorbers (discs) in the low back, spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis.
What does sciatica feel like?
Most often when patients present to our office with sciatic pain, they will report one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain that is worse when sitting.
- A “burning, tingling or searing pain” in the leg as opposed to a dull ache
- Trouble moving the toes, weakness or numbness, or a “dead feeling” in the leg
- A sharp pain which makes it hard to walk or get up from seated
- Pain that radiates down the leg and into the foot and toes
Symptoms of sciatic pain can be very debilitating and painful, however it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage will result and spinal cord involvement is also rare.
Sciatic pain can come and go or it can be constant and incapacitating. Symptoms often vary depending on the location of the pinched nerve.
What is the sciatic nerve?
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in our bodies and when it travels though our buttock region it can be the size of our thumb. The sciatic nerve is made up of several branches or “nerve roots” which branch out from our spine at our low back and form the “sciatic nerve.”
The symptoms of sciatica occur when the nerve is compressed at or near its point of origin. The nerve travels from our low back, through our buttock and down the back of both of our legs. As the nerve travels, it branches out to supply certain parts of the leg, calf and foot.
Why can the symptoms of sciatica be different from person to person?
The symptoms of sciatica can vary depending on where the nerve was pinched. If the segment at L5 is affected the person may notice numbness, weakness and tingling in a different area than if the area at S1 is involved.
Who is more likely to experience sciatica?
Sciatica is not very common in people under the age of 20 and is most likely to occur during middle age. Often one particular event (ie. lifting something) does not cause sciatica, instead it usually develops over time.
Will I need surgery?
The majority of people with sciatica will get better within a few weeks or months and find that they are able to get pain relief without surgical intervention.
Chiropractic Care for sciatic symptoms
Several forms of treatment have been shown to be effective in alleviating some of the symptoms of sciatica. These treatments include Chiropractic care, acupuncture and massage therapy.
Dr. Alison Leitch is trained at using a variety of treatment methods to address sciatic pain depending on the cause of the sciatica, patient preference, and effectiveness. Dr. Alison may incorporate muscle soft tissue work, chiropractic manipulation or gentler mobilization, dry needling (acupuncture) and/or exercise/stretching prescription.
The treatment is designed to improve functioning in the lumber spine, reduce muscular tension, reduce compression on the nerve(s), improve circulation and promote relaxation to assist with healing.
Dr. Alison Leitch has completed a 4 year Doctor of Chiropractic Degree and an additional 4 year Health Science Degree. She has also completed in the Medical Acupuncture Health Sciences program from McMaster University in Canada, and is skilled in a variety to soft tissue techniques to address problems related to muscles, ligaments, nerves and fascia. Dr. Alison’s area of focus is conditions related to the joints, spine, pelvis, nerves and muscles such as back and neck pain, headaches and arthritis. Dr. Alison Leitch practices in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.