Is that pain down your leg sciatica or something else?


What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a medical condition characterized by pain going down the leg from the lower back. This pain may go down the back of the leg. Generally, symptoms are one sided and are worse with sitting or long walks. Sciatica can also come with weakness and numbness of the leg and foot. Learn more here.

What Causes Sciatica?

  • Muscles– A muscle spasm called Piriformis Syndrome: The sciatic nerve runs in front of, behind, or through the piriformis muscle. This muscle can become tight with overuse or poor activation of the glutes. When this muscle is tight, it can cause sciatica symptoms.
  • Discs- Spinal Disc Herniation or Bulg: When a disc (tissue between two vertebrae in your spine) herniates and is putting pressure on a nerve. This causes about 90% of cases of sciatica
  • Bone- Spinal Stenosis: A condition with the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord, cauda equine, or sciatic nerve roots. Causes of this narrowing are bone spurs, spondylolisthesis (shift of the vertebra from where they normally are), inflammation, or a herniated disc.

How is sciatica treated?

  • Depending on the cause, sciatica may be treated differently. Some cases spontaneously resolve over weeks to months, however conservative treatment administered in the first 6-8 weeks has been reported to help with symptom management and decrease the healing time.
  • Conservative treatment includes:
    • Chiropractic adjustments for restricted joints
    • Soft Tissue work in the area of chief complaint
    • Stretching
    • Ice or Heat
    • Massage
    • Acupuncture

How can a chiropractor help with sciatica?

After performing an exam and getting a proper diagnosis, chiropractors will use a combination of adjustments, ice or heat, soft tissue massage, assisted stretching, electrical stimulation, and rehabilitation exercises to improve proper function of the spine, pelvis, and muscles. Depending on the cause and severity treatments can range from 6-12 visits and pain should be reduced within 6 visits or the chiropractor will order imaging like x-rays or an MRI.

How can an acupuncturist help with sciatica?

Acupuncture can help relief pain, inflammation, and muscle spasm. Needles may be placed in different locations depending on the cause of sciatica. The severity of the condition will determine how many treatments are needed. Most treatments are 6-12 visits, but many people get some relief after 2-3 visits. You will be given home exercises to support the acupuncture and prevent future recurrence.

Acupuncture and sciatica in the news.


What 2 home exercises are best for sciatica?

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Cat-camel– Begin on hands and knees in a neutral position as if you are creating a table top. Take a deep breath in and on your exhale, let your belly drop toward the floor and create a U-shaped curve in your spine. The top of your head and your tailbone should both be reaching toward the ceiling, and you sternum and belly button should be reaching toward the floor. Then you simply reverse the curve by moving through the neutral position and reaching your head and tailbone towards the ground and your spine toward the ceiling, hollowing out your belly and squeezing your abdominal muscles.

Piriformis stretch– Lie on your back and bend your knees. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and press your knee away from your body. To deepen the stretch, pull your left thigh toward your body. You should feel this stretch in the buttock and hip of your bent leg. Take deep breaths and hold for 30 seconds-1 minute. Repeat on both sides. The video shows another way to do it seated.

Learn more about low back pain


For more exercises