Sciatica – just a pain in the backside?

Sciatica is a general term for a set of symptoms; namely, pain in the buttock that radiates into the leg. It’s not a condition in itself, because it has different triggers.

What is sciatica?

location of the sciatic nerve sciatica

Sciatica gets its name from the sciatic nerve. The longest nerve in the body, it runs from the lower spine, down the leg into the foot. The term sciatica refers to irritation of this sciatic nerve, usually due to compression. This can be caused by a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease for example. Conditions that place strain on the spine like being overweight or sitting for prolonged periods can also trigger irritation.

Do I have sciatica?

If you have sciatica you may experience some of these symptoms:

  • Shooting pain in the leg.
  • Constant pain on one side of the buttocks.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Issues moving the leg or foot.
  • Pain in the leg or rear (often worse when seated).
  • Problems standing up from a seated position.
  • Burning/tingling sensation down the leg.
  • Trouble when raising or bending one leg.

If you have pain in the buttocks that only travels into the thigh or groin, it might not be sciatica. Another disc problem or facet joint issues could be the cause here. Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body at a time. The severity and duration of symptoms may come and go, and vary between people.

What can I do to treat sciatica?

The best option depends on what the underlying cause is. As a result, treatments range from spinal adjustments, steroid injections, NSAIDs or surgery. Clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommend conservative care (such as that typically provided by a chiropractor) as a first-line of management before trying any other more invasive forms of treatment.

Consider manual therapy (spinal manipulation, mobilisation or soft tissue techniques such as massage) for managing low back pain with or without sciatica, but only as part of a treatment package including exercise, with or without psychological therapy. (Source: NICE Guidelines NG59)

Chiropractors are renowned for providing these exact types of treatment package and are therefore well positioned to help provide relief from sciatic pain. Find out more about how we can help you manage sciatica here. Care focuses on alleviating pain and irritation of the nerve, restoring movement and facilitating a speedy return to normal activity.

Research shows although surgery offers quicker relief than conservative treatment, there were no clear differences in long-term success rates*.

If you’re tempted to rest when sciatic pain flares up, remember that inactivity can be bad. Spending long periods of time sitting or lying down can often make symptoms worse. 

Often, the best treatment approach involves pain management and staying active. In addition, this helps mental and physical wellbeing. If you are having sciatic issues, you can learn more from your chiropractor.

Ready to book your appointment with our award-winning chiropractor?

* Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica – BW Koes et al., 2007.

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