The symptoms of sciatica often include sharp pain, numbness, tingling or burning in the
back of the legs. In severe circumstances, weakness in the legs can also be seen.
The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that travels down the back of the leg to the bottom
of the foot. It includes several smaller nerves and originates from the spine at the level of the low back. It
passes under the piriformis muscles, which lies under the gluteus maximus muscle (main buttock muscle) on its way
down the leg. Irritation of the sciatic nerve at any point along its path is commonly referred to as
A diagnosis of sciatica, however, is often of little use to the
sufferer unless it specifically indicates where along the nerve the irritation is occurring. Although entrapment of
the nerve can happen in several different places, the two most common sites are where the nerve originates at the
spine and where the nerve passes under the piriformis muscle.
Both cases respond well to chiropractic, although treatment can be drastically different depending on the
Sciatica Related to Nerve Irritation at the Spine
Irritation of the nerve as it exits the spine is often the result of mechanical dysfunction of the joints of the
spine. Occasionally, the nerves exiting the spine can become “pinched”. Although the traditional idea of an
impinged nerve is one that is sandwiched between two bones, we now know that nerves can become irritated at the
spine in a number of different ways. Nerves can be pressed upon by bulging discs, encroached on by bony overgrowth
or “stuck” to surrounding soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, fascia).
Treatment of Sciatica Related to Joint Dysfunction or Bone Malposition
Sciatica related to joint dysfunction or bone malposition is best corrected using chiropractic adjustments. By
using carefully directed and controlled pressure to restore joints to a normal position and motion, the pressure
placed on the nerve is quickly and painlessly reduced. This often results in immediate (sometimes dramatic) pain
Sciatica related to disc injury often requires
additional treatment methods. The McKenzie protocol and Cox Flexion/Traction are both techniques available in our
office. The aim of the McKenzie protocol is to reduce nerve impingement by “reshaping” the spinal disc with
sustained pressure over successive treatments. Cox Flexion/Traction uses a specialized chiropractic table that
bends and elongates the spine to reduce pressure within the disc. Both techniques are capable of providing both
immediate pain relief and rehabilitation to prevent future recurrences.
Treatment of Sciatica Caused by Bulging Discs
Non-Surgical Spinal Disc Decompression provides relief
to sciatica sufferers by gently reducing the pressure within spinal discs.
The most effective treatment available to reverse sciatica caused by a disc bulge or herniated disc is
Non-Surgical Spinal Disc Decompression. Spinal decompression is a non-surgical, state-of-the-art treatment
which provides relief to severe back and neck pain. The bones of the spine are slowly and gently separated. As the
vertebrae are separated, pressure within the disc (intradiscal pressure) is reduced to the point where a vacuum is
formed. This vacuum “sucks” the gelatinous center of the disc back into the disc thereby reducing the Disc Bulge.
This takes pressure off the spinal nerves and drastically reduces pain. This action also allows much-needed oxygen
and nutrients to flow into the injured discs to aid in the healing process.
Sciatica Related to Entrapment at the Piriformis Muscle
The sciatic nerve passes directly under or through the piriformis muscle (in most people). When healthy, the
nerve should slide easily within its sheath and never “stick” to the muscle directly. This is important as the
nerve stretches like a rubber band with certain movements of the spine and legs.
Traumatic injuries or repetitive motions can cause inflammation to reside near the piriformis muscle. This
inflammatory process can lead to the formation of scar tissue “adhesions” that can force the piriformis muscle and
nerve to become “stuck” to one another. The first symptom is usually stiffness in the low back, hips or legs. If
allowed to progress, stiffness can degrade to typical “sciatica” symptoms: sharp pain, numbness, tingling and
weakness in the buttocks or back of the legs.
Treatment of Sciatica Related to Entrapment at the Piriformis Muscle
The goal of treatment is to loosen the adhesion between the muscle and nerve and allow the piriformis muscle to
regain its complete length and strength. This is usually accomplished by applying specific pressure with a thumb or
finger at the piriformis muscle while moving the hip or leg through a full and complete range of motion. Using this
technique, the adhered tissue is held stationary while the nerve is pulled away and separated from the adhesion.
This often creates an immediate reduction in nerve tension and, therefore, immediate (sometimes dramatic) symptom
The piriformis muscle can become chronically tight due to an uncorrected sacroiliac joint problem, hip joint
dysfunction or anterior pelvic misalignment (pubic symphysis). Common causes include running and cycling sports,
prolonged sitting, auto accident with a foot on the brake at the time of the accident or pregnancy/childbirth.
Chiropractic adjustments commonly correct these dysfunctions allowing the supporting musculature to return to a
healthy, balanced state. The primary goal of chiropractic is to locate and correct the cause of your problem.
Treatment of the muscle alone will likely provide only temporary benefit as the dysfunctional joint will merely
cause the muscles to become unbalanced again over time. Likewise, ignoring the muscles and only treating the joints
will often produce mediocre results as the muscles pull the joints back into dysfunction. A combined approach of
corrective chiropractic adjustments and restorative Active Release muscle work is often the most effective
For more information please visit www.wichitaspinaldecompression.com