What Patients Need to Know About Sciatica

Sciatica is a term used to describe pain that travels or radiates along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and it travels from the lumbar spine all the way down to the foot. This can easily confuse people in to thinking that their issue lies in the hamstring or lower down the limb.

A common cause of sciatica can be pressure on the sciatic nerve from a protruded, herniated, or bulging disc. Other causes aside form issues with the intervertebral disc can range from spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. The diagnosis is usually a radiculopathy, which means that there is pressure and/or irritation on the root of the nerve. Pain can manifest lower down the leg, and in to the foot depending on which part of the sciatic nerve is affected.

For some people the pain can be fairly severe and debilitating, while other people may have infrequent pain and irritation which may only cause minor discomfort. Still many people have one of more herniated or bulging discs that remain undiagnosed because they may not be interfering with nerve activity. Pain that is infrequent or light can quickly progress to chronic pain and numbness, so it is important to get checked out sooner rather than later.

Some symptoms that might require immediate attention:

  • Incontinence of the bowels or the bladder
  • A loss of sensation or progressing weakness of the legs
  • If you are constantly weak there may be damage to the nerve, and might require surgical intervention, so it is important to seek out care immediately
  • Pain in both legs should also be dealt with immediately by notifying your doctor

Sciatica is not a Diagnosis
Its important to remember that sciatica is a symptom and not a diagnosis, it simply indicates that there is pain down the leg due to impingement or compression of the sciatic nerve. Furthermore what determines the cause of the compression is a clinical diagnosis, the impingement isn't always in the same location or the type of compression.

Most cases of sciatica require no surgical intervention and can be dealt with in 6 to 12 weeks with proper care and monitoring by a doctor.

If the sciatica does not improve with rest and time there are various options for treatment available.

Over the counter (OTC) medication or prescription medication from your doctor can help reduce inflammation and pain, inflammation being a common cause of pain.

Chiropractic Care:
Chiropractors specialize in treating problems and disorders of the lower back such as sciatica, and along with manual therapy like adjustments, they offer techniques like Spinal Decompression, the Cox technique, Active Release Techniques (ART), Cold Laser therapy, and Kinesio Taping.

Physical Therapy:
A physical therapist can design a regimen of specific strengthening and stretching exercises to help alleviate sciatica pain, and keep if from coming back in the long term. Strengthening the muscles of the lower back and abdominals, the LPHC, or Lumbo Pelvic Hip Complex which is involved in virtually all movement of the body.

As an integrated medical practice in New York City Living Well Medical offers care from  medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and a pain management specialist, all under the same roof. Free consultations are also available through email or over the phone.


We've found that spinal decompression in conjunction with chiropractic care and physical therapy can work wonders for Sciatica. That may sound like a lot, but it is better than the cost of spine surgery.

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