As a chiropractor, I have been asked this question a lot. And the answer isn’t quite a s simple as people expect….
Sciatica has become a bit of an umbrella term used to describe leg pain which originates from the lower back. Most people assume that pain travelling down their leg must be due to a ‘trapped nerve’. This is true for some cases, but it’s nowhere near as common as you might think. A nerve can be compressed or irritated by surrounding structures either at a spinal level (i.e. by an intervertebral disc or bony spurs due to arthritis) or further down its path (i.e. by the piriformis muscle in the buttock). However, the majority of ‘sciatica’ in my experience is due to muscular pain referral. This is when a muscle goes into spasm and causes so much pain, that the brain assumes a larger area is in pain (a similar mechanism happens during a heart attack when pain is felt down the left arm). The most common culprit is the gluteal muscles (more specifically the gluteus minimus). But why it goes into spasm in the first place? well, this is usually because the nearby pelvic joint (or sacroiliac joint) is irritated or inflamed, either due to an acute sprain or repetitive strain injury. The muscles go into spasm as a way of protecting the injured joint, but often end up causing problems of their own once fatigue sets in.
So what can we do to get rid of it? First, a full history and comprehensive examination is required to rule out a disc injury or nerve compression. Once thats been done, we can proceed with treatment. This is usually myofascial release techniques (usually deep tissue massage) and chiropractic manipulation to release the affected joint. Treatment is always accompanied by home stretches and strengthening exercises which help to prevent reoccurrence. The good news is, that as this is one of the most common problems us chiropractors diagnose, and we are rather good at treating it!
I hope you found this post informative. If you want to book an appointment please call 07956 623852.