What is Sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body, controlling the muscles of the lower leg, and provides sensation to the thighs, legs, and the soles of the feet. The American Chiropractic Association describes sciatica as persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down through the buttock, and into the lower leg. Some patients may experience a mild tingling, a dull ache, or even a burning sensation, typically on one side of the body, however, certain causes may result in pain on both sides. Lower back pain is sometimes but not always present. Weakness or numbness may occur in various parts of the leg and foot. Others also report:

  • A pins-and-needles sensation, most often in the toes or foot
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot

Sciatic pain often begins slowly, gradually intensifying over time. In addition, the pain can worsen after prolonged sitting, sneezing, coughing, bending, or other sudden movements. Although sciatica is a relatively common form of low back pain and leg pain, the true meaning of the term is often misunderstood. Sciatica is actually a set of symptoms—not a diagnosis for what is irritating the nerve root and causing the pain.

What is Sciatica?

About 90% of the time sciatica is due to a herniated disc pressing on one of the lumbar or sacral nerve roots.

Chiropractic Care and Sciatica

Chiropractic offers a non-invasive (non-surgical), drug-free treatment option. The goal of chiropractic care at Westwood Total Health is to improve spinal alignment and function, which helps to alleviate pressure and tension on the sciatic nerve and associated pain. Depending on the cause and severity of the sciatica, a chiropractic care program may cover several different treatment methods, including but not limited to specific spinal adjustments, ice/heat therapy, and rehabilitative exercises. Spinal decompression has also been shown to be effective in patients with sciatica.

Tips to Prevent Sciatica

While it’s not always possible to prevent sciatica, consider these suggestions to help protect your back and improve your spinal health:

  • Have regular spinal adjustments to optimize spinal alignment
  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain proper posture
  • Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest
  • If you smoke, seek help to quit
  • Use good body mechanics when lifting

Sciatica Research Articles

In 2014, a study of 192 adults with back pain radiating into the leg for at least four weeks was conducted. The study concluded spinal manipulation combined with home exercise may be worth trying for those with back-related leg pain that has lasted more than four weeks. This combination resulted in advantages in pain reduction, disability, global improvement, satisfaction, medication use and general physical health status after 12 weeks.

In 2010, 40 patients with sciatica who had a history of trying other treatment methods like painkillers, lifestyle changes, massage, and acupuncture but were still experiencing pain was conducted to determine whether chiropractic was just as successful as surgery in treating sciatica. 60% of participants in the chiropractic group clearly improved, leading researchers to conclude patients should seek chiropractic adjustments before opting for surgery.


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