The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your pelvis, through your hip area and buttocks and down each leg. The sciatic nerve branches into smaller nerves as it travels down the legs providing feeling to your thighs, legs, and feet as well as controlling many of the muscles in your lower legs. The term sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of this nerve.

What causes Sciatica?

Sciatica is actually a sign that you have an underlying problem putting pressure on a nerve in your lower back. The most common cause of this nerve compression is a bulging or herniated lumbar disc. Arthritic conditions can also cause sciatica. Disc degeneration (thinning of the disc) is also a common cause as is spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord). Dr. Peck utilizes x-rays, CT and MRI when indicated to determine the cause.  Piriformis syndrome is another common cause of sciatica. The piriformis is a muscle that lies directly over the sciatic nerve. If this muscle becomes tight or if you have a spasm in this muscle, it puts pressure directly on the sciatic nerve. Occasionally, sciatic pain in men is caused by sitting on a wallet.

How do I know if I have sciatica?

Pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg is the hallmark of sciatica. Sciatica may be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected leg. This pain can vary widely, from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation or excruciating discomfort. Sometimes it may feel like a jolt or electric shock. Sciatic pain often starts gradually and intensifies over time. It's likely to be worse when you sit, cough or sneeze.

How is Sciatica Treated?

The vast majority of the time, when sciatic pain is caused by muscular spasm the pain can be relieved through a combination of stretches, deep tissue massage of the piriformis muscle. Chiropractic adjustments help calm the spastic muscles. If the cause is due to disc herniation a technique Dr. Peck uses called "Cox Flexion Distraction" (a form of spinal decompression) works well. Spinal Adjustments also help relieve the pressure on the pinched sciatic nerve. The best approach for this type of pain is chiropractic care. Although medicine can be used for the pain, it does nothing to correct the cause of the problem. This can only be achieved through chiropractic care or surgery. Surgery is always the last option. The goal of both is to take pressure off the nerve. An alternative to medicine is acupuncture for pain relief.