Sciatica is a generic term that describes the symptoms of leg pain that has resulted from irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body. It originates from multiple levels in the lumbar spine and its terminal branches extend all the way to the toes. Symptoms of sciatica can vary from pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. These symptoms can be felt down the back, outside or front of the leg. While most commonly the presentation is one sided in certain cases symptoms can be experienced in both legs. Sciatica can occur with or without back pain.
There are many possible causes for sciatic related pain as the sciatic nerve can be irritated or compressed at multiple locations along its journey from the back down the leg. The most common causes of sciatic pain are disc herniations, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, pregnancy, degenerative spinal conditions and spinal or pelvic tumours.
Treatment of sciatic conditions is very much dependant on identifying the cause of the condition. A chiropractor uses the case history, a thorough examination of the area and possibly diagnostic imaging to formulate a diagnosis from which a treatment plan can be implemented. Therapy most commonly consists of a combination of spinal adjustive or mobilization therapy, soft tissue therapy, interferential therapy (similar to a TENS machine), gentle traction, dry needling, taping, lifestyle advice, targeted stretching and rehabilitative exercises.