Sciatica, also called radiating or referred pain, neuropathy, or neuralgia, can be defined as “pain originating in the low back or pelvic area that radiates to the buttocks and can go as far as the toes”. Although sciatica is a relatively common form of low-back and leg pain, the true meaning of the term is often misunderstood. Sciatica is actually a set of symptoms—not a diagnosis for what is irritating the nerve root and causing the pain.

The symptoms of sciatica include a pins-and-needles sensation, most often in the toes or foot or numbness or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. However, symptoms can vary widely depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected. For most people, sciatica responds very well to conservative care, including chiropractic. Keeping in mind that sciatica is a symptom and not a stand-alone medical condition, treatment plans will often vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem. The cause can be one of two things. Its origin is either a contracted piriformis muscle or a misalignment of a spinal bone. A chiropractic x-ray is a definitive way to diagnose.

Chiropractic offers a non-invasive (non-surgical), drug-free treatment option. The goal of chiropractic care is to restore spinal movement, thereby improving function while decreasing pain and inflammation. Depending on the cause of the sciatica, a chiropractic treatment plan may cover several different treatment methods, including but not limited to spinal adjustments, ice/heat therapy, and rehabilitative exercises. Sixty percent of people with sciatica who didn’t get relief from other therapies and then tried spinal adjustments experienced the same degree of pain relief as patients who eventually had surgery, found a 2010 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.