The Skinny on Sciatica

Oct 2, 2023 | Patients

by Brent Hearn • 

If you’ve ever suffered from sciatica, you know the pain, discomfort, and frustration it can cause. Sciatica can affect people in a variety of ways, but no matter how the pain presents, it can really cramp your style.

What is sciatica?

It may be helpful to start off with what sciatica is not. Sciatica is not a disorder; it’s a set of symptoms.

Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling anywhere from the lower back through the buttocks all the way down the leg. The pain can be sharp or dull, and the symptoms may not be consistent. (You could have a stinging sensation on one part of your leg while experiencing numbness in another part.) Symptoms may be experienced at any point on the leg—even down to the sole of the foot—and are usually (but not always) experienced in only one leg.

But what causes it? 

Sciatica is usually caused by a compression of the sciatic nerve, which can occur due to a number of different causes—spinal and otherwise—including a herniated disc, misaligned vertebrae, pregnancy, or tumors, just to name a few. (Seriously…there are a lot of possible culprits.) You can even develop sciatica from sitting on your wallet. (Keep it somewhere other than your back pocket, guys!)

Okay, but what is this “sciatic nerve” you’re talking about?

The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body. It runs all the way from the base of the spine along the back of each leg into the bottom of each foot.

What can bring relief?

In short? It depends. Again, since sciatica refers to a series of symptoms and not a disorder, it’s important to diagnose the underlying cause. Sometimes sciatica gets better on its own; other times, treatment is necessary.  There is a wide range of treatments available, including (but not limited to):

    • back/core exercises
    • stretching
    • ice
    • heat
    • physical therapy
    • chiropractic
    • over-the-counter pain medications
    • prescription pain medications
    • muscle relaxers
    • epidural steroid injections
    • surgery (usually a last resort)

Tell me more about how chiropractic can help!

In some cases, chiropractic adjustment can help restore mobility to the spine and reduce nerve irritability that’s causing pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and other symptoms associated with sciatica.

There are additional benefits of seeing a chiropractor for sciatica. If chiropractic can relieve your particular symptoms without the need for medication, you can bypass the possible side effects of said medications. And since you don’t need a referral to see a chiropractor, you can “cut out the middleman,” as it were.

If your sciatica pain falls outside the bounds of your chiropractor’s expertise, they should be able to point you in the direction of a provider who can help.


Cleveland Clinic: Hands-On Help: How a Chiropractor Can Provide Lower Back or Sciatica Pain Relief

Cleveland Clinic: Sciatica

Health Central: What to Know About Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica

healthline: Why is My Sciatica Not Going Away?

Penn Medicine: Sciatica

Reuters: Chiropractic Care May Ease Back-Related Leg Pain

Spine-Heath: Sciatic Nerve Anatomy