What Causes Sciatica?

What Causes Sciatica?


It’s a term we hear from childhood. Maybe from a parent or grandparent. I recall my grandmother grabbing her lower back and wincing. “That’s my sciatica acting up!”

The youthful ones among us wonder what this mysterious illness is. And, more importantly, “Will I get it?”

Sure enough, it happens. Maybe it’s happened to you. Or maybe you are reading this because you want to know if your pain is THAT pain. And what is the next best step?

What is Sciatica?

It’s not a medical diagnosis. It’s a description of a collection of symptoms caused by the irritation or compression (or both) of the sciatic nerve.

How Does Sciatica Feel?

The symptoms are varied. They include….

  • Burning. Sciatica pain may feel like a constant burning sensation anywhere from your hips to buttocks and/or down the back of the leg.
  • Radiating Pain. A common sign of sciatica is a pain that radiates in your hip and buttock area or down the back of your leg. It can be hard to pinpoint where it is but you know it’s there!
  • Numbness. A common symptom can be a feeling of numbness down the back of the leg.
  • Weakness. You may experience some muscle weakness in your leg as well.
  • One-Sided Pain. Sciatica tends to affect one side of your body or the other.
  • Tingling. Since sciatica is a compression or irritation of a nerve(s) you can also experience tingling or pins and needles feeling in your leg or foot.

The sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the human body, runs down your backside from your hip, buttocks area, and all the way down the leg to your foot.

It’s actually a union of 5 different nerve roots that exit out of your lower back vertebrae.

Specifically, these nerve roots are the individual nerves that exit your L4 and L5 (the lowest Lumbar vertebrae), and your S1, S2, and S3 vertebrae (Sacroiliac vertebrae).

When they come together they form a nerve that is approximately 2cm in diameter. That’s a big nerve!

What is Sciatica?

Can Sciatica Come and Go?


Think of it this way:

Your nerves are like power lines. They carry signals from the power station, which is your central nervous system, out to every muscle, organ, and cell in your body. And like power lines, your nerves travel from your lower back down your hips, buttocks, and legs to your feet.

If one of the individual root nerves or the larger sciatic nerve gets irritated at the power station, then it can affect anything along the path of the power line.

This is why a spinal disc irritating a nerve in your low back sends its pain way down into your leg!

Or it may be a deep burning sensation in your buttock but the problem actually originates somewhere in your lower spinal column.

Now that you understand what is happening, imagine that you take a few walks and do a few stretches and begin to feel better. But then you sit for a long trip in the car and the pain flares back up again.

Sciatica can come and go as much as the nerves are compressed or irritated, and, in turn, are relieved in some way.

But you do not have to live with the dread of pain coming and going at will.

Is There An Underlying Medical Condition To My Sciatica?

Our nerves can become irritated or compressed from a variety of causes.

  • Spinal discs begin to degenerate with age. Time and gravity take their toll on the spine.
  • Bone spurs on the vertebrae may interfere with the nerve as it exits the spinal column.
  • Spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal column - may have occurred and is compressing a nerve.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction - when the joints at the bottom of your spine don’t move properly - can lead to sciatica-like pain.
  • Or maybe you suffered an injury which led to a disc herniation and now there is major irritation or compression of the nerves.

A Chiropractor can help discern what is going on.

What Do I Do When Sciatica Pain Is Unbearable And Won’t Go Away?

Don’t let the scary sounding terms freak you out. There are things you can do to get relief.

There Is A Way Out.

Sciatica can be resolved without resorting to risky medications or dangerous surgery. That’s great news.

Some more great news…..

Research has shown that 89% of patients suffering from sciatica responded very well to chiropractic adjustments.

Also, if you’ve thought about therapy, here is something to consider:

A recent research paper found 20% more patients experienced relief with Chiropractic adjustments and exercise than exercise alone.

Our Advice:

Stay active AND address the pain.

There are three ways to care for your body and sciatica pain:

Daily Exercise

Walking is a great way to stay loose and stay fit. Add some distance to your routine each week till you can walk for an hour. Then gently increase your intensity to gain even more benefit.


tretching relaxes the muscles that may be pressing on the sciatic nerve. It improves flexibility so that you can move more and stay relaxed.

Take time regularly to stretch your hamstrings, your piriformis, and your hips. (Need some specific input here.)

Stretching to Prevent Sciatica

Periodic Chiropractic Care

If you are currently in pain, please call 262-638-9999 and come in to see us at Daniels Chiropractic. We want to help you feel, move, and live better.

At Daniels Chiropractic we practice soft tissue therapy that helps release and soften up tight or overstretched muscles. Then we can go deeper with the chiropractic adjustment. This means faster pain relief of your sciatica and underlying symptoms.

We will also recommend a lifestyle plan for you to implement at home.

Notice that we recommend periodic adjustments. Keeping an eye on your spinal health periodically can help prevent issues in your lower back from returning and putting you right back where you were.

In other words, maintenance care today can put you and keep you on the road to recovery.

So many sciatica sufferers ask:

Which Doctor Do I See For Sciatica?

And it’s a great question because all kinds of medical providers have their own answers.

However, there is research that strongly suggests that the vast majority of sciatica patients do not need surgery or narcotics or injections.

The research publications, SPINE and the European Spine Journal, studied a wide range of types of care to find the safest and most effective options.

You may be surprised to know:

Patients who were classified as “surgical candidates” improved with Chiropractic care to the same degree as if they had surgery! Furthermore, medications and injections for back pain show little to no improvement with use.

How can you receive hands-on care that will make a difference?

Research in the JMPT (Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics) shows that more patients improve with Chiropractic adjustments than those who receive spinal injections.

Chiropractic care is not only effective. It is safe. For years, many have suffered through unnecessary and dangerous surgeries trying to fix their back problems. But the medical community knows now that medications, injections, and surgery should only be offered as a last resort.

Over 90% of patients suffering from sciatica pain report being “much better” or “better” after receiving Chiropractic care. 90%.

Remember how your nerves are like power lines? Just like your local power company needs to perform maintenance on their equipment, you should also perform maintenance on your body.

Getting adjusted has been shown to increase your flexibility and range of motion, help keep your spinal discs healthy, and it can even prevent future episodes of back pain!

Want to Get Better?

At Daniels Chiropractic we can get your spine back into its normal position and increase its mobility. We can also design a stretching and exercise plan for you to implement at home for your sciatica.

We are committed to helping you feel, move, and live better. Give us a call at 262.638.9999 to make an appointment.

Daniels Chiropractic Office

2609 Rapids Drive
Racine, WI 53404
Phone: 262.638.9999
Fax: 262.638.0742

Science Source:

  • Manipulation or Microdiscectomy for sciatica? A Prospective Randomized Clinical Study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2010.
  • Symptomatic MRI-Confirmed Lumbar Disk Herniation Patients: A Comparative Effectiveness Prospective Observational Study of 2 Age- and Sex-Matched Cohorts Treated with Either High-Velocity, Low Amplitude Spinal Manipulative Therapy or Imaging-Guided Lumbar Nerve Root Injections. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 2013.
  • Spinal Manipulation and Home Exercise with Advice for Subacute and Chronic Back-Related Leg Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine. Volume 161, Number 6.
  • Outcomes of Acute and Chronic Patients with Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Confirmed Symptomatic Lumbar Disc Herniations Receiving High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude, Spinal Manipulative Therapy: A Prospective Observational Cohort Study with One Year Follow-Up Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. March/April 2014.
  • Does Maintained Spinal Manipulation Therapy for Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain Result in Better Long-Term Outcome? SPINE. 2011.