Sciatica means ‘leg pain’ and is the name given to a pain in the leg when the cause is an injury in the lower back.
On each side of the lower back, a series of nerves branch off to different parts of the lower body. The largest, the sciatic nerve, runs down the back of each leg. When back problems put pressure on the nerve, the result is pain in the lower back, buttocks and back of the leg and possibly all the way down to the toes.
The sciatic nerve may become irritated when the inner part of the shock absorbing discs between the bones bulge out into the space where the nerve starts. This is called a protrusion and if it bulges out too much, disc prolapse or rupture could occur. This puts even more pressure on the spinal nerves, resulting in sciatica.
Leg pain has many other causes. The most common causes include referred pain from the joints, ligament and muscles in the lower back, tight buttock muscles, joint and muscle problems in the spine or pelvis, and back sprain.
What are the symptoms?
Neurogenic pain, pain from the nerve, is usually a sharp, burning, shooting pain and it is often associated with a feeling of ‘pins and needles’, hot and cold sensation, numbness and muscle weakness.
Referred pain, pain due to a muscle and joint problem in the back, is usually a dull, achy pain, but can also be sharp. It does notcause a feeling of ‘pins and needles’, hot and cold sensation, numbness and muscle weakness.
First of all a diagnosis has to made before any treatment can start. A chiropractic examination, which includes a neurological examination, would find out what the cause of your leg pain is and the most appropriate treatment can be given.
Chiropractic treatment has been proven to be very effective especially if combined with exercise. Surgery for disc injuries should be the last option if nothing else helps. Research has shown that patients that do not have surgery do better in the long term.
Surgery is sometimes necessary, especially if bowel and bladder control is affected.