Sciatica! What Do You Need To Know About It?

Sciatica! What Do You Need To Know About It?

At Spinal Rehab of North County, sciatica, is a very common reason that people come to see us.  We get tremendous results helping people recover from their sciatic pain.  What we want to answer with this post is:


  • What is sciatica?
  • What causes sciatica?
  • How do you diagnose sciatica
  • What treatment can help sciatica?


What is sciatica?


Sciatica is a pain pattern that typically means pain and/or numbness and tingling that starts in the back of the hip and travels down the back of the leg and sometimes all the way into the foot and toes.  This pain can be very mild for some people…it’ll feel like muscle tightness and achiness or can be very severe causing extreme pain in most positions, for other patients.


What causes sciatica?


Sciatica is caused by irritation, inflammation or impingement of the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve begins in the lower lumbar spine.  As the last few nerves exit the spine they travel down the pelvis and merge together to form the sciatic nerve.  This nerve then passes through a slot in the pelvis right near the hip in the buttocks.  It then travels down the leg all the way to the foot.  This nerve supplies feeling to the skin and muscle function to the buttocks and leg.  


Therefore anything that can irritate or impinge/pinch this nerve can cause the sciatica type of pain.  


The first place this irritation/impingement can occur is in the lumbar spine itself.  When it occurs in the lumbar spine, it is usually caused by a herniated or bulging lumbar disc.  When the disc is bulged it puts pressure on that nerve root causing the pain you feel associated with sciatica. 


It can also be caused by muscle tightness in the back of the hip.  There is a fairly large muscle that sits right next to the sciatica nerve as it exits the pelvis in the butt area.  This muscle is called the piriformis muscle.  If this muscle gets tight or spasms it can also irritate the sciatic nerve causing symptoms.


One other thing that can cause sciatica is misalignment of the pelvis or lumbar spine which can cause tightness of the piriformis muscle or other muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve. 

How do you diagnose sciatica?


Sciatica is diagnosed by taking a history and doing a comprehensive physical examination.  This will allow the doctor to  determine if the cause is from muscle tightness or spinal/pelvic misalignment.  If it is suspected that the cause is from a herniated/bulging lumbar disc then typically an MRI is needed to get an accurate diagnosis. 


How do you treat sciatica?


We will start with the most invasive treatment option…surgery.  Sometimes surgery is the only option for someone suffering with sciatica.  Surgery is only warranted if the pain is from a herniated/bulging disc  and you have exhausted all other options to treat the problem.


An amazing alternative option to surgery if the pain is from a herniated/bulging disc is spinal decompression.  Spinal decompression gently separates the lumbar spine creating more space for the nerves as they exit the spinal canal.  By creating more space it allows the pressure on the sciatic nerve to be removed and the pain to go away.   Studies have shown a 70-85% success rate in treating sciatic pain caused by herniated/bulging discs.  We offer this amazing treatment option at Spinal Rehab.


If the pain is caused by the piriformis muscle tightness or misalignment of the pelvis or lumbar spine then chiropractic and massage therapy are your best bets.  This treatment option is very effective at reducing muscle tightness and spasming and correcting misalignments in the pelvis and spine.  We are experts in this treatment option at Spinal Rehab.


If you or someone you know suffers from sciatica then call our office for a free consultation 801-492-9300.  The first step in getting it better is getting an accurate diagnosis.  We have almost 2 decades experience diagnosing and treating sciatica. 
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