Sciatica: A Pain in the Butt… and Leg

January 18th, 2022

If there’s one condition that’s a true pain in the butt (and leg) it’s sciatica.  Named after the largest nerve in the body, sciatica is a painful condition that is caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve.  

The sciatic nerve is formed when 3 nerve roots emerge from the lower spine and come together to form one nerve.  That nerve travels from the lower back into the buttock and down the back of the thigh.  

The term sciatica is not a stand alone diagnosis.  Sciatica refers to a group of conditions that can cause irritation of the nerve roots that form the sciatica nerve or irritation to the sciatic nerve itself.  Irritation at the level of the spine is by far the most common cause of sciatica.  


Bulging disc

The bones in your spine are called vertebrae, and in between each of your vertebrae lives an intervertebral disc.  With repetitive strain it is possible to sustain an injury to these discs.  Occasionally the disc injury can lead to irritation of a nearby nerve root as it exits the spine.  That irritation can cause pain that radiates along the path of the nerve.  

Contrary to popular belief, discs cannot slip or become misaligned.  Just like any tissue in the body they can become injured, which can lead to pain, and they can heal!

Fortunately, the vast majority of bulging discs do not require surgery and can be managed successfully by a chiropractor or physical therapist.  Adjustments along with specific movements and stretches can make all the difference!


Spinal stenosis

As mentioned above, the nerves that run down your hip and into your leg originate from and exit the spine through holes called foramen. Over time those holes can become narrow and slowly encroach on the nerves they house causing a condition called spinal stenosis.¬† While not technically ‚Äúsciatica,‚ÄĚ symptoms like pain in the lower back or pain/numbness/tingling in the leg are common.¬†¬†

Similar to disc bulges, many cases of spinal stenosis can be managed successfully by a chiropractor or physical therapist.  Adjustments along with core exercises and stretches can significantly help manage spinal stenosis. 


muscle spasm

The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the hip under a muscle called the piriformis muscle (there is some variation in this from person-to-person).  When the piriformis muscle gets tight it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing it to become symptomatic.  This is often called piriformis syndrome.

Therapy techniques like massage, dry needling, and stretches are very effective at treating this condition.  

Regardless of the cause of sciatica, most cases can be managed with conservative care like chiropractic adjustments, stretches, and exercises.  If you’re struggling with what seems like sciatica, click HERE to schedule an appointment.  


The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat medical conditions.¬† If you’re experiencing pain, see a medical professional.


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