You know what I’m talking about, and it’s literally a pain in the butt! Before I get into this common complaint experienced by many, here is a brief anatomy lesson.
The sciatic nerve arises from the lower back and is quite large compared to the other nerves in our body. It travels down the buttock and back of the thigh, then branches into two other nerves: the common fibular and tibial, which continue into the leg and parts of the foot.
The sciatic nerve provides input to the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh, while its branches take care of the lower leg and most of the foot muscles. In addition to allowing these muscles to work, the sciatic nerve and its branches carry sensory distribution to the thigh, leg and foot. The (colored) areas in the photo below show this distribution.
Sciatica arises when there is compression on the nerve. This usually results in a sharp shooting pain in the buttock and down the leg. Numbness and tingling can also occur in the areas described above.
An estimated 5-10% of patients with low back pain have sciatica. Some risk factors for sciatica that have been reported include: 45-64 years of age, smoking, mental stress. Occupation factors include strenuous physical activity, such as lifting and bending and twisting while doing so. Truck drivers are also at risk, due to the long hours driving and vibrational forces that go along with it.
There are different ways in which the sciatic nerve can become compressed:
- Lumbar Disc Herniation
The protrusion of the disc into the spinal canal will put pressure on the nerve and cause radiating symptoms and pain down the leg.
- Facet Joint Irritation
When our joints in the lower back aren’t moving properly, this can place pressure on the nerve.
- Piriformis Syndrome
The piriformis muscle is located in the buttock. When this muscle is tight, in spasm or injured, this will cause sciatic symptoms to occur. The sciatic nerve sits underneath the piriformis in 87% of people. Interestingly enough, the sciatic nerve can actually pierce and go through the piriformis muscle, seen in about 10% of people.
Other less likely causes are spinal stenosis and tumors. However, regardless of your case, chiropractors are capable of determining the cause of a sciatic episode by completing a thorough history and physical examination.
Chiropractic care has been shown to help improve symptoms of sciatica, through spinal traction, as well as spinal manipulation of the lower back. To ensure you are taking care of it at home, your chiropractor will provide you with helpful stretches and exercises.
It is recommended to stay active when faced with sciatica. If your job requires frequent lifting, make sure you bend those knees and keep that spine neutral!
Come in for a free consultation at Avenida Wellness if you or anyone you know is experiencing symptoms of sciatica. If managed early and properly, the need for a surgical procedure is less likely.
Call us at 587-352-6611 or visit us at our downtown location at 1210 8 St SW #120, Calgary, AB T2R 1L3!