Sciatica refers to irritation of the sciatic nerve – the major nerve that runs from your low back all the way to your big toe. The sciatic nerve carries signals that control the muscles and sensations in the back of your thigh, the lower leg, and all of the foot. When the nerve gets irritated, it can result in several different changes including: pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in the leg, ankle, or foot.
Symptoms from sciatica occur on just one side of the body. There are two subtypes of sciatica that should be distinguished by your doctor in order to determine the most effective treatment method. Your chiropractic doctor will determine the source of your sciatic symptoms and provide a plan to address the root cause.
With true sciatica, the irritation of the sciatic nerve occurs in the low back and is usually from a herniated or sequestered disc. The disc puts pressure on the nerve as it starts to form in the lower back. The sciatic nerve responds to the pressure by sending signals of pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness. Left untreated, this can become a debilitating condition with significant impacts on your ability to work and care for yourself or loved ones and will negatively impact your outlook on life and overall life satisfaction. With proper care, symptoms of sciatica can be significantly improved or even fully resolved, and you will again be able to find joy in day to day life without intense pain and dysfunction.
Piriformis syndrome is also irritation of the sciatic nerve and has the same symptoms as true sciatica – pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the leg. The difference is the source of the nerve irritation. Piriformis syndrome is caused by the piriformis muscle (a muscle in the buttocks that helps to turn the leg out) pinching on the sciatic nerve as it moves into the leg. Just like with true sciatica, piriformis syndrome that is untreated will lead to significant impacts on your health and quality of life. Proper treatment can often provide complete relief of the symptoms of piriformis syndrome.