The sciatic nerve along with its many branches is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It is about the diameter of a finger and its course runs through the buttocks, back of the thighs to the feet. The nerve can become irritated or inflamed by many causes and results in pain down the leg which is referred to as sciatica.


The sciatic nerve is comprised of 5 sets of paired nerve roots that join together within the pelvis and then continue down each leg. The sciatic nerve has many branches which form smaller nerves providing sensation and controlling muscles in your legs and feet. All nerve impulses to and from the lower limb travel via the sciatic nerve which makes it an important part of the body’s nervous system. It is important to understand that sciatica is a medical term used to describe symptoms in the leg caused by other low back conditions and that in itself ‘sciatica’ is not a diagnosis.

Why do we get sciatica?
Sciatica is actually a sign that you have an underlying problem, and there are several causes:

  • Disc herniation
  • Degenerative disc disease: normal aging affects the disc shape and function and can result in a herniated disc and pain
  • Piriformis syndrome: the sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle so muscle tightness or spasm in the piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve.
  • Pregnancy: the extra weight and pressure on your spine can cause compression of the sciatic nerve.
  • Spinal stenosis: your nerves travel through spaces in your spine and these spaces can narrow (stenosis) significantly so that it puts pressure on the nerves in your low back.
  • Trauma: you can injure the sciatic nerve through a car accident or other trauma such as a skiing or horse-riding accident.
  • “The Wallet Syndrome”: men typically put their wallets in their back trouser pocket which can then compress the sciatic nerve when they sit down.

"Often it is aggravated by periods of sitting and standing; coughing and sneezing"

The symptoms of sciatic nerve problems range from mild to very severe symptoms and can include any of the following; pain that travels from the low back through the buttocks, downward into the leg and sometimes the foot; shooting pain down your leg; burning or tingling sensations in your leg or leg weakness. Often it is aggravated by periods of sitting and standing; coughing and sneezing or other kinds of movements. As with disc herniations it is best to avoid bed rest.

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Chiropractic treatment has been shown to reduce and resolve sciatica through a non-invasive and drug-free approach. Your chiropractor will take a history and physical examination and may obtain further imaging studies such as an x-ray in order to diagnose your symptoms.