The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness, or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. Sciatica is often characterized by one or more of the following symptoms: Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely in both legs), pain that is worse when sitting, leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling, or searing (versus a dull ache), weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg, foot, and/or toes, a sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or walk, pain that radiates down the leg and possibly into the foot and toes (it rarely occurs only in the foot)
Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Symptoms are usually based on the location of the pinched nerve. Sciatica rarely occurs before age 20 and becomes more commonplace in middle age. It is most likely to develop around age 40 or 50. Perhaps because the term sciatica is often used loosely to describe leg pain, estimates of its prevalence vary widely. Some researchers have estimated it will affect up to 43% of the population at some point.
Often, a particular event or injury does not cause sciatica—rather it tends to develop over time.
The underlying causes of sciatica vary from low back disc injuries that might include herniation and/or degeneration, spinal stenosis, an entrapped sciatic nerve in the pelvic region, or muscle referral patterns that mimic nerve-like symptoms. It is important that a thorough examination is performed to determine the root cause of the sciatic-type symptoms. Chiropractic care offers many options for treating the different causes safely and effectively.