Sciatica refers to a condition that is characterized by sharp shooting pains, such as burning, stinging, or numbing, that begin in the buttocks and travels down the leg to the foot.
These may or may not be associated with lower back pain. The most common cause of lower back pain is a compressive neuropathy from a disc herniation impinging one or more of the bottom three nerve roots of the lower back (L4, L5, and S1) that make up the largest and longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve.

What are the symptoms of Sciatica problems?

The pain is usually one-sided, but can occur bilaterally. True sciatica is a radicular pain that travels and displays a dermatomal pain pattern. Dermatomes are part of a clinical map that indicates the distribution of nerve fibers in the skin and how we perceive pain and sensory information.

The S1 nerve distribution, which is the most common impinged nerve root by the L5 disc, experiences pain and numbness of the back of the thigh. The pain radiates through the back and part of the side of the lower leg as well as the side of the foot. The L5 distribution occurs at the most lateral aspect of the lower leg and the L4 on the inside of the lower leg.

These clinical symptoms help doctors diagnose the level of impingement or herniation preliminarily before an MRI is ordered to confirm the lesion.

Patients may experience:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of reflexive response

These symptoms correspond to the dermatomal pain distribution and classifies a more serious impingement.

What causes Sciatica pain?

Sciatica is not a condition but a symptom of underlying medical problems. Three common causes are:

Herniated or Ruptured Disc

This is one of the most common causes of sciatica. A herniated (or “slipped”) disc occurs when the soft core a disc in your spine is pushed through a weakened part of the outer core, placing pressure on your nerves or spinal cord. The lower back (“lumbar area”) is a common area to suffer a slipped discs.

The discs in your neck can also sometimes be affected. Herniated discs typically occur as a result of strenuous activity, especially as one ages. Pain often starts slowly and may worsen over time. You may notice the pain intensify with coughing, laughing, after standing or sitting for long periods of time, or when trying to sleep.

ruptured disc
spinal stenosis diagram

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the passageway between vertebrae in your spine to narrow. Since your nerve roots and spinal cord are located within this space, any compression can cause nerves to be pinched. Most people experience this in their neck or lower back. It can cause numbness or pain in the neck, shoulders, back, arms, legs, and calves. Like many other conditions stemming from spinal discomfort, the pain may worsen over time.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis occurs when a bone in the spine slips out of its proper place and onto the bone below it. This condition and the pain associated with it can range from mild to severe. It is estimated that many people with spondylolisthesis are not symptomatic, but for those who are, this condition can be very uncomfortable.

Some individuals may feel only numbness in their thighs and buttocks area, but other symptoms include tightness in the back or hamstrings, weakened muscles, or pain in the area in which a disc has slipped.

Cysts and tumors are also often to blame for sciatica pain, and are among more rare conditions that cause pain, such as:

  • Synovial Cysts
  • Piriformis Syndrome
  • Obturator Syndrome
  • Far Out Syndrome
  • Tumors
  • Hypertrophied Epidural Blood Vessels
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Gas Filled Synovial Cysts

You don’t have to deal with your pain alone.
Spinal adjustments can help lessen pain by mobilizing painful joint dysfunction and reduce nerve irritations that cause muscle spasms and inflammation.