Low back pain & Sciatica

Sciatica is a symptom of pain in the sciatic nerve of the leg. Sciatica is defined as pain radiating in the supply distribution of the sciatic nerve. Further on in this article you can read what sciatica is, testing for sciatica, professional treatment for sciatica and home treatment for sciatica.

What is Sciatica

Sciatica can be felt from the buttocks, down the back of the thigh into the back of the calf muscle and sometimes into the bottom of the foot. Sciatica is an irritating stimulus to the lumbosacral nerve branches (L4-L5 to S1, S2, and S3) of the sciatic nerve.

Sciatica Causes

The sciatic nerve can be irritated anywhere along its path from the nerve roots existing your spine into the pelvis out through the buttocks in the hamstring muscle splitting behind the knee into the calf. The most common conditions to cause sciatica are lumbar facet dysfunctions, ruptured (herniated) lumbar intervertebral discs, hip joint dysfunction and Piriformis syndrome.

Sciatica Treatment

Relief from sciatica is obtained by treating what is causing the sciatica. Professional treatment is recommended as your first line of sciatica relief.

Professional Treatment of Sciatica

A spinal healthcare professional, like a chiropractor, is the first person to consult. This is so the correct diagnoses as to the cause of the sciatica is obtained and so any self-treatment methods do not cause further harm or delay in appropriate treatment.

Professional treatment for sciatica should be conservative in nature firstly. Surgery for sciatica is very rare and so has to be earned by the patient first using conservative treatments like chiropractic as first line treatment. Chiropractors will look to diagnose the condition causing the sciatica and create a treatment plan for the cause. This may include spinal manipulative therapy, rehabilitative exercises, ergonomic advice, nutritional advise, referral to a GP/specialist for pain medication, referral for x-ray or MRI scans and if indicated referral for a surgical consult.

Surgery is only considered for sciatica if there is progressive neurological disturbance that is also inhibiting function in daily activities of living. Emergency surgery is indicated for cauda equina syndrome - loss of normal bowel/bladder control and/or numbness around the anus. If you have these symptoms you need to seek urgent medical help.

Self-Treatment of Sciatica

Once you have your diagnoses as to the cause of your sciatica and you have been appropriately advised by a spinal healthcare professional, like a chiropractor, here are some basic self-help treatments for sciatica.

  • Ice - use a covered ice pack for 20min per 1 hour for natural pain relief on the lower back.
  • Walk about every so often - do not stay in bed or sit all day and not move.
  • Pillow between knees in bed - pillow can keep your pelvis in a neutral position for sleeping on your side.
  • Perform McKenzie exercises - only if your healthcare professional has advised you to do so.