2 Your Health: Sciatica: A ‘Pain in the Butt’ and Leg

Craig W. Brue, D.C.

Sciatica is often associated with pain, numbness, tingling, and aching in the lower back, hip, buttock, thigh, calf, and foot. The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest of all the body’s nerves, running from the lower back (the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae) through the buttocks and down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve controls the muscles and sensation of the legs and feet.

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica is generally caused by nerve compression, and the problem is most commonly a result of a misaligned lower spine that is pinching the root of the sciatic nerve. The most common causes of sciatica are related to these spinal conditions: disc degeneration, disc bulges/herniations, retrolisthesis (posterior slip of a vertebra), spondylolisthesis (anterior slip of a lower lumbar vertebra), spinal scoliosis (curvature), pelvic/sacral imbalance from a short leg, foraminal stenosis (pinched nerve openings), and osteoarthritic changes associated with aging. All of these conditions will cause a sciatic nerve to be impinged or compressed.

How is sciatica diagnosed?

Sciatica is usually quite simple to identify through a case history and examination. Typically, sciatic pain is increased by certain movements, sitting, and prolonged standing. Although one cannot see the sciatic nerve on an X-ray, imaging studies will help to rule out pathology (tumors and fractures) and lead to an accurate diagnosis. Without an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your problem, it is unlikely that you will ever have a successful resolution of your complaints.

What is the best treatment for sciatica?

Let me ask you a simple question. If your finger was pinched in a door, what would you do? Would you ask for some aspirin, ibuprofen, or oxycodone? Would you ask someone to inject you with corticosteroids? Would you ask someone to cut off your finger? The obvious answer is no. You would simply holler, “Help … get the door off my finger!”

Sciatica is really no different. Sciatica is the result of a pinched nerve in the lower back that radiates into the butt and leg. A pinched sciatic nerve is usually related to long-standing structural or biomechanical problems in the lower back; including misalignment, spinal curvature, leg imbalance, disc degeneration, disc protrusions, and spinal stenosis (pinched nerve openings).

How does a chiropractor help a pinched sciatic nerve?

Eliminating sciatic pain is about as simple as getting the door off the pinched finger. When a chiropractor makes a spinal correction, or spinal adjustment, the pressure on the nerve is quickly reduced and the nerve pain will begin to subside.

The benefits of chiropractic spinal adjustments may vary depending on how long you wait for spinal care. The longer the nerve remains pinched, the longer it will take to heal. My advice: Find a great chiropractor to help you eliminate sciatic pain without drugs, shots, or surgery.

Dr. Craig W. Brue is an author, lecturer, and chiropractic provider in SaddleBrooke, Ariz.