Sciatica is defined as pain or discomfort associated with the sciatic nerve. Running from the hip/pelvis area down the back of each leg, through to the lower legs and feet the sciatic nerve is the main nerve that serves the smaller nerves of the lower body – rather like tributaries flowing off the main river. Combined, these nerves provide the 'feeling' or sensation we experience in various parts of the lower body when we are touched or make contact with anything – hard, soft, hot or cold.

Causes of Sciatica

So, what causes sciatica? The most common cause is a disc bulge, herniation or prolapse (often incorrectly referred to as a slipped disc) which creates pressure on the sciatic or other related nerves - pain is the resulting symptom. Another reason for the sciatic nerve to become irritated is degeneration of the spine, which can be caused by long-term subluxation or a past traumatic injury. Other, less common, causes of sciatica include infection or tumours.

Being overweight, smoking and pregnancy can also contribute to sciatica developing. Essentially any injury or process which causes compression of the sciatic nerve can cause sciatic pain. Even a wide belt or one that is too tight, or sitting on your wallet, has been known, through pressure, to create the pain associated with sciatica.

When you have sciatica you may feel sudden, sharp or burning pain that travels from the area of your buttock downwards as you make a sharp move, such as getting up suddenly from a seated position. The pain is quite distinctive in that it feels something like a mild electric shock running down the back of the leg. This can often be accompanied by tingling, numbness and weakness of the muscle in the affected leg.

How to deal with sciatica?

Sciatica is generally able to be treated relatively simply. Avoiding heavy, physical exertion is a good start. However, moderate physical activity has taken the place of the historically prescribed 'bed rest', which has actually been shown to exacerbate the problem. Many modern schools of thought now accept that moderate activity assists in the reduction of inflammation around the sciatic nerve which, in turn, tends to aid recovery.

In many cases of sciatica, chiropractic care may be effective both for immediate pain relief and for long-term management. Sciatica is traditionally a misunderstood condition in the public's mind. If you have any doubts or questions, it is best to be assessed and seek opinion from a qualified health practitioner.

Chiropractors work on the principle of reducing interference so the nervous system and body can work better. Providing that any symptom or condition is occurring as a result of nerve interference from vertebral subluxation, there is a very good chance that it will improve with chiropractic care.