My doctor told me I had sciatica,” Elaine reported. “But the muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories have not helped.” When I get a history like this, the first thing I ask the patient is where they feel the pain. Very often patients with any type of thigh pain are told they have sciatica. However, as often as not, they do not have true sciatica. So what is sciatica exactly and what causes it and how can you know if you have it. More importantly, how can sciatica be treated?


Sciatica is simply a description of a specific area of pain. A true sciatica pain pattern is pain felt in the buttock, back of the thigh, back or side of the calf, to the foot. The pain can be in any one of these locations. It can even be in the buttock, skip the back of the thigh and then be in the back of the calf. Or it can just be in the calf. There may or may not be back pain with sciatica.


What causes sciatica? Irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve

arises from nerve roots starting below the 4th lumbar vertebra and

includes some sacral nerve roots. These roots then combine to form the

very large and long sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs the hamstring

hamstring muscles, the calf muscles, muscles that flex your toes and

muscles on the bottom of your foot and supplies sensation to these areas.


What can irritate the sciatic nerve? From something as simple as a man

sitting on his wallet, to serious as a bulging disc or a disease like diabetes.


When we have a patient with sciatica symptoms, our first job is to figure

out what is causing the symptoms. Our exam includes a series of physical,

orthopedic and neurological tests to determine the cause.


Common findings are that the sciatica is due to compression of the nerve by a spasm of a muscle in the buttock; or a disc problem; or inflammation of one of the lower spinal joints; or irritation of the lower back joints or sacroiliac joints from being “stuck”, or for pregnant women, the postural changes that come with advancing pregnancy along with stuck joints in the lower back.


Our treatments for this condition depend on the cause and may include ultrasound and other therapies to relax muscles, gentle adjusting of the joints to free them, nutrients to speed healing and reduce inflammation and exercises. For pregnant moms-to-be we use gentle alignments and massage work to ease the discomforts for a more comfortable pregnancy. If you have sciatica, or think that you might, or if you have lower back, buttock, thigh or leg pains of any type and would like to know what can be done about it, simply give us a call to schedule an exam at 978-535-6155. Why suffer?