Sciatica is a term used to describe pain down the leg. It is a loose term that relates to compression of the sciatic nerve which is the largest and longest nerve in the body running from a collection of nerves at several levels in the low back right down to the nerves in the feet.
Leg pain or sciatica can be quite varied ranging from numbness (including pins and needles sensation) or muscle weakness, cramping or burning sensation in the thigh as well as pain or aching in the leg. In more rare occasions there may be loss of movement in the affected leg(s). Sciatic pain can affect anywhere along the path of the nerve, from the low back through the buttocks and down the back of the leg to the feet. It is also possible to have leg pain without low back pain.
A rarer degree of sciatica that often involves both legs, affects bladder and bowel function and causes numbness around what is termed the saddle area may be due to compression of the spinal cord and requires urgent medical attention. This is known as cauda equina syndrome.
The degree of pain can also be variable ranging from a dull ache to a sharp excruciating pain which may or may not be relieved by a change in position or activity. Sleep often becomes difficult.
The reasons for sciatic pain are variable but it is often related to a mechanical cause when the nerve becomes trapped. These can include
- Protruded/herniated disc (slipped)
- Narrowing of the spinal canal
- Degenerative disc disease
- Other causes (injury or a growth in the spine)
Sciatica is linked to increasing age, genetic tendency, walking and particular physical occupations, including driving, jobs involving prolonged standing and bending forward and exposure to vibrations.
NICE Clinical Guidelines (2009) for early intervention of low back pain that has persisted for more than six weeks or less than twelve months recommends drugs to control pain and a choice of physical treatments which may include a course of manual therapy, including spinal manipulation, of up to nine sessions over twelve weeks.
Our gentle chiropractic using the McTimoney approach at Hiltingbury Chiropractic is suitable for sciatic pain. Please give us a call to discuss your particular problems on 023 8027 3545.