by | Feb 2, 2023

Have you ever suffered from sciatica?  Do you know someone who has?  It can result in debilitating pain in your back and/or leg.

The good news is that hands-on therapy by your chiropractor can provide you with relief from sciatica.  You can fix your sciatica without the unwanted side effects of medication.

You do not need to listen to those who say “live with it!”

I have been a chiropractor for more than 20 years and I have seen the pain and frustration felt by my patients who come to me with back and/or leg pain.  I know how quickly this pain can come on without any actual injury.  For example my patient Susan who came last week and said – “all I did was stand up out of my chair and turn around”.Yes that is all it took for this patient of mine to feel immediate sharp shooting pain down her leg.

When I asked Susan what she did for a living  she said she was a computer software engineer and spent at least 7-8 hours a day sitting at her computer.  She had recently taken on this job and due to her long working hours she had not been going to the gym for the past 8 months.  In addition, she had recently put on 40 lbs from the change in her lifestyle.  All of these things happened slowly and I knew that her sciatica was the result of long periods of sitting, increased weight, and deconditioning of her core and back muscles.  As a result she was suffering from increased pressure on her sciatic nerve which resulted in pain in her back and down her leg.

I explained to Susan the cause for her back pain.  She began doing her home exercises.  We began treating her inflammation and mobilising her lumbar spine.  And after what seemed like a very long 4 weeks – she did recover and was able to return to working her normal hours.  Except she took our advice and bought a sit stand table which allowed her to avoid long periods of sitting that had contributed to her sciatica.  Susan was so happy she shared her experience with her friends so they would not repeat it!!!

This is why I decided to write this blog – so that many of you reading this can benefit from Susan’s story and from the information in this blog.  But sometimes we do our very best and we still may experience an episode of sciatica – if that happens to you then do not worry we are here to help you!

How to protect your feet

The sciatic nerve is the nerve that comes from the lower part of the spinal cord where its “roots” exit the spine and form into the largest nerve in the body. This nerve can become inflamed, irritated, pinched, squeezed, trapped, bruised, or diseased. When this nerve is irritated in any of these ways an abnormal feeling will result anywhere along the course of the sciatic nerve, from where its roots exit the spine, all the way down to the tips of the toes where the nerve ends. This condition is called sciatica.

Depending on where the nerve is irritated and what is causing the irritation the sensation the person feels will be different. The feeling might be pain, burning, squeezing, pressure, aching, tingling, numbness, cramping, weakness, a feeling like the leg is wet, or a feeling that ants are crawling on the skin. Sometimes, but not always, the sciatica is accompanied by lower back

How to protect your feet

What causes Sciatica?

The most important thing in the treatment of sciatica is to find the cause of the problem. Where is the sciatic nerve being irritated? How is it being irritated? It really doesn’t matter if the pain is severe or mild. Sometimes a very serious sciatica might only cause mild pain, and sometimes a mild sciatica will cause severe pain. What matters more is the degree of leg weakness and numbness, and if there are any reflex changes in the leg.

X-rays will be necessary to find certain lower back problems that might be causing the sciatica. Sometimes a CT or MRI is needed to better evaluate the source of the sciatic nerve irritation. Orthopaedic tests will be done by the chiropractor to see where the nerve is being irritated. Often the problem is in the lower back, usually the lower lumbar discs. Sometimes the patient has no lower back pain at all yet they have sciatica.

Facts about Sciatica:

  • Males and females equally affected
  • More common in 40’s
  • 10-40% chance of having it in your lifetime
  • If you have had it before physical activity may bring it on again
  • Some jobs that require awkward positions may irritate the nerve

Conditions that interfere or compress the sciatic nerve

  1. Herniated or bulging disc in low back (lumbar spine)
  2. Arthritis of the lumbar spine (stenosis)
  3. Misalignment of one lumbar spine segment (spondylolisthesis)
  4. Low back or pelvic muscles spasm and inflammation
  5. A mass (benign or cancerous) in or around the spine
How to protect your feet

How do I know I have sciatic and not something else?

Your chiropractor/physiotherapist is highly trained and experienced to be able to ask you questions and perform specific tests to help determine the cause of your pain.

Typically sciatica is described as:

  • Back pain
  • Usually pain down the back of ONE leg
  • Pain or burning in the buttocks
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Heaviness in the leg

BUT Medical emergencies are possible:
IF you experience any of these go to your nearest emergency department:

  • Worsening numbness and/or weakness
  • Symptoms in both legs
  • Bladder and/or bowel incontinence
  • Numbness in the genital or groin areas
How to protect your feet

What are the risk factors for sciatica?

You are at greater risk of sciatica if you:

  • Have a previous injury to your low back or spine
  • Are older as normal ageing results in more use and pressures on your spine
  • Are overweight as more weight on your spine means your muscles are strained
  • Lack of strong core means less support for your low back
  • Have an active physical job
  • Lack proper posture while lifting heavy weights
  • Have diabetes as it increases your risk of nerve damage
  • Have osteoarthritis as this damages your spine and puts your spine at risk
  • Lead an inactive lifestyle with sitting long periods and not exercising
  • Smoking weakens bones and wears down vertebral discs

What kind of testing can help decide if I have sciatica?

  • Having your leg raised with your knee straight – this is done by the doctor/therapist
How to protect your feet

Are x-rays or MRI required?

  • The diagnosis of sciatica comes from your description and physical examination
  • Xrays may not be necessary unless you have had a trauma and may have a fracture
  • If you are not improving after 6-8 weeks of treatment or other other neurological symptoms then you  may need an xray/MRI

So how can I get rid of this sciatic pain in my buttocks?

To treat sciatica, it is essential to obtain an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause, since the treatment of each condition may be unique and different from the others.


Sciatica usually responds well to medical treatment without long term complications.

Typically relief is seen in 4 to 6 weekS

How to fix your sciatica without drugs or surgery ?

  • Spinal manipulation by your chiropractor – releasing restrictions in your spine may release pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Exercises to stretch muscles in your buttocks that may be pinching on the sciatic nerve – called “piriformis syndrome”
  • Specific McKenzie Exercises or positioning to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve
  • Postural changes – avoid sitting or change sleeping position
  • Deep tissue massage to relax the muscles that are tight and pinching the sciatic nerve
  • Hot or cold packs
  • Change your posture often- avoid long periods of the same posture
  • Do not sit for long periods of time eg driving or sitting in a chair
  • Do not stay in bed or lie on the couch for long periods of time
  • Practise good posture
  • Do the exercises given to you by your doctor/therapist – gentle stretching, light aerobic, low level core strengthening
  • Use proper lifting techniques
  • When progressive neurological symptoms, such as severe weakness and/or numbness is present, minimally invasive treatments or surgery may be suggested.
  • Sciatica surgery may provide immediate pain relief, with results sustaining up to 1 year. But research suggests that after 4 to 10 years, the effectiveness of surgical and nonsurgical treatments is usually the same

In addition – sometimes medication is required – here are some options:

  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory pills to help bring down the pain
  • Opiod analgesics or spinal injections if the pain is severe
  • Muscle relaxants to relax the tight muscles
  • Medications for nerve pain – specific for the sciatic nerve to relax
  • Corticosteroids by mouth or injection
  • Surgical correction if needed only if absolutely necessary
How to protect your feet

How does exercise provide relief to sciatica pain?


While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise is more effective in relieving sciatica pain than bed rest or staying active with daily physical activities. 

How to protect your feet

Why is exercising so important to recover from Sciatica?

Exercises prescribed by your chiropractor or physiotherapist are planned, structured, repetitive and continue to progress as you improve.  You will benefit from:

  • Increased muscle strength
  • Increase in the activation or use of the muscle
  • Strong muscles help to support the spine
  • Strong muscles improve the stability of the spine
  • Pain from muscle fatigue is reduced
  • Improved bone health – increasing bone density and thus stronger bones
  • Increased blood flow to muscles, nerves, and other soft tissues which promotes healing and relieves stiffness
  • Nourishing the spinal discs between each spinal vertebrae – healthy discs are able to absorb forces applied to them during exercise and activity
  • Reduced swelling and stiffness of the sciatic nerve with nerve gliding exercises or mobilisation exercises
How to protect your feet

In summary, sciatica is a common symptom of irritation of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is not a diagnosis. If you go to your medical doctor with leg discomfort or numbness and the doctor tells you that you have “sciatica” you should say “I know I have sciatica. I want you to figure out where the sciatica is coming from!” Chiropractors are sciatica experts who will listen to your symptoms, examine you, and find out the cause of your sciatica. At that time proper treatment can begin to relieve the problem that is causing the symptom known as “sciatica”.

    If you are experiencing sciatica or know someone who is experiencing sciatica make an appointment with your friendly neighborhood Physiotherapist and/or Chiropractor in Richmond Hill at 16th Avenue Chiropractic and Physiotherapy.

    Call us 905-709-7147 

    email us  info@chirophysio16th.com

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Question: What is sciatica and how common is it?
    Answer: Surveys show that about 40% of people will experience sciatica sometime during their lifetime.

    Question: Can sciatica affect only one side of your body?
    Answer: Yes, in most cases sciatica affects one side of your back and/or leg.  However it is possible for sciatica to occur in both legs.  It depends on where the sciatic nerve is being pinched along the spinal column.

    Question: Once my sciatica goes away will it come back?
    Answer: It depends on the underlying cause of your sciatica and whether you got proper treatment and so had a good recovery.  If the cause was spinal restrictions then you may need ongoing chiropractic treatment.  If the cause is tight muscles you will need to continue stretching regularly.  If the cause was a disc bulge then you must address the cause of the disc injury. 

    ABOUT 16th Ave Chiropractic and Physiotherapy

    You have your own personal goals. Maybe you want to return to sport, work, recover from surgery or get ready for a vacation. After 40 years in Richmond Hill our highly trained and experienced chiropractors and physiotherapists know what treatment/exercises you need to help you reach your goals.
    Learn More

    Make an appointment by calling us or emailing and talk about how we can help you.

    Call us at 905-709-7147 or email us at info@chirophysio16th.com