As an experienced chiropractor, I am frequently presented with the phrase ‘I’ve got sciatica’. But did you know that ‘sciatica’ isn’t really a diagnosis?
‘Sciatica’ is a term that loosely describes any injury in the low back that causes pain down the legs or buttocks. It is derived from the name of the largest and longest nerve in that region: the sciatic nerve.
There are also different types of sciatica. True sciatica (also known as neurogenic or radicular pain) is typically caused by an injury to a spinal (intervertebral) disc, and can lead to irritation or damage to the nearby spinal nerves which then form the sciatic nerve. This frequently leads to pain in a particular pattern down the leg, often past the knee, and can also be accompanied by pins and needles, sensation changes and muscle weakness. Usually the leg pain is far worse than the back pain.
Non-radicular sciatica (or referred pain) is much more common and is caused by an injury in the muscles, joints or ligaments of the back which then radiates pain into the buttock and/or leg. This typically stays above the knee and doesn’t cause symptoms such as pins and needles or loss of strength (although severe pain may cause weakness). The back pain is generally worse than the leg pain.
In all cases it is essential to get a diagnosis with suitable treatment and advice as soon as possible.
As chiropractors, we are experts in assessing and treating these types of injuries so that the most appropriate treatment, education or referral can be given. The most important step is to take a detailed case history, and perform a thorough neurological and orthopaedic examination, prior to any treatment plan.
Most people respond well to treatment. Once a certain level of improvement has been achieved, appropriate exercises will be offered to help stabilise the spine and take control of your health. Depending on your circumstances, regular chiropractic care and exercises may be recommended to help to maintain spinal function, so that in the long term the problem is less likely to return.
Pure Health Chiropractic & Wellness (Stafford and Newport)