Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve. Each of us has two sciatic nerves in our body. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body and is formed by several of the lumbar (or lower back) spinal nerves after they exit from the spine. It travels through the pelvis, runs deep into each buttock, and then travels down each leg where it then branches into two other nerves just before it reaches the knee.
When something places pressure on the sciatic nerve, the lumbar nerves that feed it, or the nerves that branch off of it, the result can be pain, numbness, tingling and/or burning anywhere along the path of the nerve. In the worst case scenario, a person may feel weakness in their leg and may even become immobile.
Things which can place pressure on the lumbar section of the sciatic nerve include misaligned vertebrae, bulging discs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the openings where the spine and nerves travel), or arthritis. Things such as the piriformis muscle or other soft tissues in the pelvis can also compress the sciatic nerve when they are out of alignment. Additionally, other muscles and joints that reside in the region where the nerve runs can irritate it.
Our chiropractic treatments can help correct many of the causes of sciatica. Adjustments to misaligned vertebrae or discs, the pelvis, hips, knees and even ankles can help take the pressure off the sciatic nerve. This, coupled with interferential therapy (a form of Electrical Muscle Stimulation), heat or ice, and stretches many times provides excellent relief from sciatica.