Chiropractic care to keep you fit, active and healthy


Do you have sciatica?

| By Dr Debbie Tan (Chiropractor)


Back pain - Athletic woman rubbing her back


Sciatica is a term that gets thrown with low back pain, however it is a different form of low back pain. Sciatica is painful syndrome that is caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower part of the spinal cord, down the back of the leg and to the foot. Compression on the sciatic nerve can cause a sharp pain that radiates from the lower back or hip, and down to the foot, following the pathway of the nerve.1

Patients with sciatica may experience low back pain, but the most common symptom is pain that radiates through one buttock and down the back of the leg. Pain usually affects one leg at a time, and can be dull or sharp and intermittent or continuous. It can also be worsened by certain actions such as sneezing, coughing, bending or sitting.  Besides pain at the buttock and down the leg, one may experience numbness, muscular weakness, tingling, sudden loss of bowel or bladder control and difficulty in moving or controlling the leg in general.1

In majority of the cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc along with nerve-root compression.2 Other causes include lumbar canal stenosis, which refers to the narrowing of the lumbar spinal canal, extra-spinal bone and soft tissue tumours and piriformis syndrome, arthritis in the lower back, bony growths on spine and trauma such as motor vehicle accidents and pregnancy.1,3,4,5

Treatment of sciatica may include epidural steroid injections, spinal manipulation with light massage, acupuncture, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (PENS), dry needling and stretches and exercises to strengthen the area.6,7,8 The recovery time for sciatica ranges from 6 weeks to 6 months.6

It is highly recommended to see an allied health professional if you are suffering from sciatica. A Chiropractor can perform a history of the injury, a full examination of the lumbar spine and give a comprehensive diagnosis in how to tackle individual cases. Chiropractors are trained to view not only the targeted area, but to focus on the whole patient. Hence they often take a longer time to look more closely into the condition to find the less common causes of sciatica. When treated with manipulation, sciatica patients have an 8-9 % greater recovery rate than is they go into standard medical care or physical therapy.6

What can you do if you have sciatica in the meantime? Keep moving! We recommend that you continue walking and going about your normal duties. Reduce movements that increase pain – such as bending forward and sitting for long periods of times. If the injury occurred within the past 24 hours, ice is recommended for the lower back. After 24 hours, heat is recommended.

If you have further questions regarding sciatica, please contact your health professional.

  1. Wexler B. Sciatica. Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. [e-book]. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale; 2006 [cited 2016 Jun 26]. Available from: Gale Virtual Reference Library.
  2. Valat J, Genevay S, Marty M, Rozenberg S, Koes B. Sciatica. BestPract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010;24(2):241-52. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2009.11.005
  3. Bickels J, Kahanovitz N, Rubert CK, Henshaw RM, Moss DP, Meller I, et al. Extraspinal bone and soft-tissue tumors as a cause of sciatica: Clinical diagnosis and recommendations: Analysis of 32 cases. Spine. 1999;24(15):1611-6. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199908010-00017
  4. Cass S. Piriformis Syndrome: A Cause of Nondiscogenic Sciatica. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015;14(1):41-4. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000110
  5. Maheshwaran S, Davies AM, Evans N, Broadley P, Cassar-Pullicino VN. Sciatica in degenerative spondylolisthesis of the lumbar spine. Ann Rheum Dis [serial on the internet]. 1995 [2016 July 26];54(7):539-43. Available from:
  6. Chiropractic researchers take aim at Sciatica. Journal of the American Chiropractic Association [serial online]. 2001 [2016 July 26];38(3):6. Available from: ProQuest.
  7. Ghoname EA, White PF, Ahmed HE, Hamza MA, Craig WF, Noe CE. Percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: an alternative to TENS in the management of sciatica. Pain. 1999;83(2):193-9. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(99)00097-4
  8. Skorupska E, Rychlik M, Samborski W. Validation and Test-Retest Reliability of New Thermographic Technique Called Thermovision Technique of Dry Needling for Gluteus Minimus Trigger Points in Sciatica Subjects and TrPs-Negative Healthy Volunteers. BioMed Res Int. 2015;2015:546497. doi: 10.1155/2015/546497

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should contact your own physician or other qualified health can provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on information from this content. Relying on information provided by this content is done at your own risk. Although the authors have made every effort to provide the most up-to-date evidence-based health information, this content should not necessarily be considered the standard of care and may not reflect individual practices in other geographic locations.


Share this blog post:

Category: Spine Care