‘My Sciatic Nerve is Killing Me’…Cause, Symptoms and Care

My Sciatic Nerve is Killing Me’ - Cause, Symptoms and Care by Elmira Family Chiropractic

People come into the office all the time and say, “My Sciatic Nerve is killing me!” Now I don’t know if the sciatic nerve has ever actually killed anybody, but I do know it is the longest nerve in the body and the thickest, about the diameter of a quarter, so a small amount of pressure on there can kill. However, based on the high frequency of people who have been incorrectly diagnosed with Sciatica, I believe clarification is needed.

What is it really?

Sciatica is low back and leg pain caused by pressure on a nerve due to misalignment of the spine in the lumbar region (lower back) or sacrum. The problem begins in one or all of the nerves from L4 to S3 which coalesce in the buttock region to form the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs the length of each leg from the buttock down the back of the leg into the foot. Most people feel the leg pain is often worse than the back pain. The leg pain can feel like a burning sensation, numbness, tingling, muscle tension in the hamstrings/calves or a general weakness.

If you have pain running down your leg you need to know something important: all nerves from the lower back and sacrum control and regulate not only the muscles of the legs, but also the lower G.I. system, the sex organs, and bladder. So this condition is much more serious then just radiating pain.

Sciatica is often confused with these common maladies:

  1. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction: this is a misalignment of the sacrum as it relates with the pelvis and can cause pain in the buttock, tight glutes or pain near the dimples of Venus (at the bottom of the spine).
  2. Piriformis syndrome: tension or tightness in the piriformis muscle which crosses from the hip to the sacrum can put pressure on the sciatic nerve which passes under the muscle and cause similar symptoms to Sciatica. This is hard to differentiate from true sciatica because there is rarely just tension in the piriformis muscle without a misalignment of the bones it attaches to.
  3. Facet syndrome: irritation of the facet joints in the lumbar spine can cause low back pain and can refer down into the buttock and hip. This often is associated with a catching feeling or an inability to straighten up as the body wants to stay in flexion or slouched.

I have Sciatica, so what do I do?

Chiropractors are highly skilled and trained in the detection of low back and leg pain caused by the sciatic nerve.

According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 60% of people with sciatica who didn’t get relief from other therapies and then tried Chiropractic experienced the same degree of pain relief as patients who eventually required surgery. The 120 people in the study saw a Chiropractor about 3 times a week for 4 weeks, and then continued weekly visits, tapering off treatment as they held their adjustments for longer periods of time. In people who responded to Chiropractic care, benefits lasted up to a year(1).

“Spinal adjustments may create a response in the nervous system that relieves pain and restores normal mobility to the injured area,” says study researcher Gordon McMorland, DC, of National Spine Care in Calgary, Alberta. “It also reduces inflammation, creating an environment that promotes the body’s natural healing mechanisms.”

Other therapies like massage, Acupuncture and physiotherapy can help relieve some of the pain and dysfunction. Specifically if there is involvement of the piriformis muscle then muscle release therapy can help a lot. Other things you can try include foam rolling to help with the muscle tension (click here to watch) and even going for a walk. The cyclical motion of walking and swinging the arms can help take tension off the nerve.

All of these therapies can help, but at the end of the day if there is a misalignment in the spine then the only thing that can correct that is a specific chiropractic adjustment. If you or your family need help or have questions please ask and we will find someone to help you start living your life to the fullest.

Dr. Thom

(1) McMorland G, Suter E, Casha S, du Plessis SJ, Hurlbert RJ., Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010; Oct;33(8):576-84.

13 thoughts on “‘My Sciatic Nerve is Killing Me’…Cause, Symptoms and Care”

    1. Hi, as you can surely understand it is impossible for me to diagnose what might be causing your hip and knee pain through text. If you would like to try to get to the bottom of it just message me with your contact and location and I will try to find you a Chiropractor close to you that can help. Email: team@elmirafc.com

      Dr. Thom

  1. I went to Chiropractor for 9 weeks of treatment and physical therapy I still don’t have relief from my sciatica problem and I’m the most miserable I’ve ever been. I feel hopeless. I spent a lot of money there and to still be feeling this way after is very disconcerting and disappointing.

    1. Hi Mary. I am sorry to hear you are suffering and am saddened to hear that you feel hopeless…First off, don’t give up. Your body is designed to heal and the greatest doctor resides in you. As you can surely understand it is impossible for me to diagnose what might be causing your sciatic pain through text. If you wan’t to try and get to the bottom of it just message me with your contact information and if you can’t come see me me, I will find you the best Chiropractor nearest you that can help. Dr. Thom

  2. shirley chaplin

    I am in a world of excruciating pain, sitting, standing, lying down, bending and walking, I cannot get any relief, No medication works at all, can the sciatic nerve be elliminated

    1. Shirley, sorry to hear you are suffering…Sciatic pain can be excruciating and often times medication does not relieve it. Just know that things will get better.
      During this difficult time with COVID-19, most offices are closed. In the meantime, if you want to try to get some answers, email me with your contact information and we can see how we might be able to help you. Yours in health, Dr. Thom

    2. Shirley, I know how you feel, i really do. I thought of gout ?as well simetimes its swollen and looks like my ankle is broken Mine even goes into my upper back all the way to my hand. I find it difficult to control my hanf at times. Its as if its pullung in any direction. I am sad and in pain so ba

  3. I have such pain. Waking up half an hour after going to sleep and nothing helps. During the day I only have slight pain in my leg and back. I’m exhausted and have never had such pain. I do exercises every morning and walk a lot during the day. What can I do, I have tried pillow between my legs taking pills before sleep, nothing stops the pain, numbness etc.

    1. Hi Gwen, sorry to hear you are suffering. Sounds like you are trying your best during these challenging times, but perhaps there is something else we might be able to help you with. Email me at team@elmirafc.com so I can get to know what’s happening and try to help you find some relief. Dr. Thom

  4. Hey mate, saw a chiropractor about 8 times, couldn’t do a specific alignment, my body just wouldn’t allow it, sent me to get X-rays, found out I have Spina bifida occulta.. tells me it’s probs not related just coincidence, sends me to get mri, that doc just tells me to quit smoking and start swimming.. after spending a heap money I get no diagnoses, no help, no treatment.. fast forward about 8 years and I’m worse then ever…just reading this information has clarified a lot for me.. should I go back to a chiropractor?

    1. Thomas Green

      Hagan, sounds like you are looking for some answers and don’t know where to turn. I appreciate that you are doing some of your own research and I would be happy to help guide you. Going back to the Chiropractor may be a good option, but obviously I can’t diagnose what is going on over text. Best would be to shoot me an email and we can chat about you and how to get you the help you require. Dr. Thom

  5. Hi Dr Thom,

    Interesting information. Thank you. I have suffered for three years now since i stopped my sport crossfit after a large popping noise of my right leg joint at he hip sent me to the floor. I seem to recover only two days after but I have suffered what seems to be sciatica pain on and off since this happened. I can only jog slowly now, as soon as i attempt to sprint the pain literally cripples me for days to come and then it disappears again giving me a false belief its gone. My home is currently Perth Western Australia but i have been stuck at work Offshore of Balikpapn Indonesia for over four months now and unable to get any decent treatment, only anti inflammatory’s from our onboard medic. I am due to reach land on the 22nd of June in Balikpapan Indonesia where i will spend 3 weeks to rest and recover from work. My employer is taking me for an MRI scan at the local Indonesian clinic as i can still not get home due to border restrictions. Is there anyone that you know of or could recommend who is skilled enough to truly help me as up until now i find the quality is poor over in this area.

    1. Hi Troy,

      Sounds like you have lumbopelvic dysfunction, but it is impossible for me to provide an exact diagnosis over text. An MRI is great and make sure to get a copy of the images, not just the report, so that you can bring it to a practitioner in the future. I did a Google search and unfortunately it appears that Chiropractic is not regulated or approved by the ministry of health in Balkipapan. That being said, I am sure I can find you a Chiropractor in Perth for when you are home? In the interim, if you would like to chat more about how we might be able to help you send me an email at team@elmirafc.com.
      Dr. Thom

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