Sciatica is pain in the leg caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. The pain usually extends from the buttock area down the back of the thigh to the knee and possibly as far as the foot. Leg pain may be sharp and shooting, a toothache-like feeling, or a burning or numbing sensation. The leg may start to feel weak and it may be difficult to go up and down stairs.
Although sciatic pain is felt in the leg the problem is higher up where the nerves exit the spine in the lower back. A number of things can cause the sciatic nerve to be compressed or irritated. Misalignment of the vertebrae, arthritic spurs, a herniated disk or entrapment of the nerves by soft tissue in the pelvis may all produce sciatica.
We see many patients with sciatica and our treatment success rate is very high. The first step is a careful examination to determine the cause of the symptoms. Sometimes x-rays or MR imaging is needed to assist in pinpointing the problem. We can then focus treatment to the affected areas. Treatment methods may include gentle adjustments (spinal manipulation) to restore joint motion and remove pressure and deep tissue therapy to reduce muscle spasm. Heat or ice may be helpful to control pain and reduce inflammation and rehabilitative exercises are generally employed for back strengthening and improved flexibility.
With this approach the majority of our patients with sciatica have been able to return to normal activities without requiring surgery.