Sciatica: A Literal Pain in the Butt

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve, the thickest nerve in the body.  It usually radiates/shoots from the lower back into the leg, often below the knee and into the foot. Sciatica is most common in people 30-50 but can happen at any age.

What causes sciatica?

The most common cause is a bulging or herniated disc in the low back (see our previous blog on Disc Injuries). Discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. If the outer rim of the disc tears, due to trauma or repetitive pressure, the jelly-like inner portion of the disc can come out and irritate (like battery acid) or compress the nearby sciatic nerve.

Another common cause is Piriformis Syndrome, in which a tight or spasming piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve.

How do you know if it is sciatica?

  • Low back pain that shoots into the buttock or leg, worsened by coughing/sneezing.
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling into the leg.
  • Diminished reflexes and sensation in legs.
  • When you go see your chiropractor, physical therapist, or other doctor, you will be evaluated, some hands-on testing done where they check for signs of sciatica, and then there may be x-rays and an MRI involved.

How do I treat sciatica, naturally?

  • Rest: if the pain is excruciating and incapacitating, lying down for short periods can help, but prolonged bed rest does not. As soon as you are able to, get up and slowly walk around to loosen up muscles and stimulate some blood flow.
  • Ice: can help reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as break the pain-spasm cycle. 15-20 minutes applied to the painful area can help. Do as often as needed.
  • Minimize/Avoid sitting: Since sitting increases pressure on the discs, avoid or at least minimize prolonged sitting or driving.
  • Chiropractic: can help restore proper function to “stuck” portions of the spine via gentle specific adjustments, while minimizing pain without drugs or surgery.
  • Physical Therapy: can help restore proper length and strength to muscles. Your therapist will develop a program to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and address other structural abnormalities.
  • Acupuncture: can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corrective Exercises: like Physical Therapy, corrective exercises will restore flexibility and strength to the indicated muscles. At Atlas, we offer Corrective Pilates, which is safe, effective, and will address not just the pain, but also the underlying structural issues that led to the pain as well.

If you are looking for a permanent solution for your sciatica, or have any questions, call us at 714 540 6792 for a free phone or in-person consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!