Sciatic Pain


Sciatica is the most commonly seen type of nerve pain. It is also one of the most debilitating types of pain.

The condition is characterized by a sharp, shooting and shock-like pain that radiates from your buttock area all the way to your foot.

Regardless of the degree or duration of pain, the finding that you are significantly compromised of your most basic human function – to stand and to walk, is often just as traumatic to the sufferers as the pain itself.

The medical definition for sciatica means specifically “pain associated with the sciatic nerves“, which could be on either side of the body.

Each sciatic nerve is a big bundle of nerves formed by the spinal nerve roots of L3 through S1 on that side of the body (3rd lumbar to 1st segment of sacrum).

This nerve bundle runs through a number of muscles in the buttock area that are deeper to the gluteus maximus muscle, down the back of the leg and calf and to the foot.

This simple road map tells you how many narrow tunnels the nerve has to thread through to reach all of its destinations – from the intervertebral foramen, through the multiple layers of muscles at the buttock area, through the thick layers of muscles at the back of the thigh, around the knee and split into two main branches to serve the front and back of the leg and foot.

Now you may begin to understand why classic sciatica is associated with pain shooting from buttock all the way to the foot.

Causes of sciatica are many.

Impingement (pinching) of the nerve can occur anywhere along the course of the nerve.

But most commonly, the nerve impingement is either at the nerve root where the nerve exits the spinal column at your low back, or in the buttock area, where the nerve has to take complicated routes through multiple layers of muscles.

In the first case, impingement of the nerve root is most commonly caused by an intervertebral disc herniation, but can also be caused by other reasons such as tumor growth.

The second type – impingement of the nerve at the buttock area, especially around the piriformis muscle, is very common, and actually accounts for more cases of sciatica than the nerve root impingement cause. The sciatic nerve is a long string, and frequently there are impingements at multiple sites along the nerve, and like any string, being pulled at both ends further increases the tension on the nerve. Therefore when there is more than one site of entrapment, it takes only a little pull or tension on each site to create major problems. This is also why additional entrapment sites at the calf area can make an otherwise pretty minor entrapment at the buttock area to be upgraded to major pain and suffering.

The conventional treatment for sciatica includes heat, ice, ultrasound, exercises, and surgery. There are specific standards to determine whether surgery is appropriate, and for most of the patients who are diagnosed not to be surgical candidates, their treatment option for a relatively fast recovery are not great. Over time, many cases of sciatica subside on their own, but the problem is very prone to recur, which is often very frustrating to many patients.

Active Release Technique and Acupuncture

The approach we take at Action Chiropractic & Wellness Center combines Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) and acupuncture.

ART works wonderfully well with the type of sciatica that is due to nerve impingement/pinch at the buttock area as described above. This is because the primary cause for this type of sciatica is due to muscle “clamping” on the nerves causing the nerve pain, and ART is the only soft tissue technique that treats every single muscle with a specific protocol, and therefore allows very targeted treatment and very effective recovery.

The high complexity of the multiple layers of muscles at the buttock area is best taken care of by ART, which allows rapid recovery from the annoying or even debilitating pain that is aggravated by standing, sitting, walking, or many other daily activities.

For the type of sciatica that is caused by nerve impingement at the nerve root by herniated disc, a combined ART and acupuncture treatment works the best. There are many causes for disc herniation, but one key reason that underlies the many different causes is muscular imbalances caused by biomechanical fault – most notably – at the low back and abdominal area.

The problem occurs when the deep abdominal muscles (note: not the 6-pack abdominal muscle that we all want, which is the most superficial abdominal muscle) are too weak or not appropriately used, which is the case for most people.

However, only those who use their low back significantly more than average or significantly less than average are more likely to develop the problem.

Therefore ART, which targets muscular problems, can restore the muscular imbalances that resulted in the disc herniation in the first place, while acupuncture rapidly takes care of the pain and muscle spasm that aggravates the pain. The result is a much faster recovery than the conventional approaches.

In addition, every patient who has a history of sciatica will be properly taught and trained about how to exercise in the correct way to strengthen the low back and deep abdominal muscles appropriately, so that they can take control of their own back and sciatic nerve for the rest of their life.

In the cases where surgery is necessary, ART and acupuncture also greatly help with recovery from the surgery, and reduces the time needed for rehabilitation to restore all normal functions. This means you can start doing the activities you enjoy doing in a much shorter time, with the added benefit in reducing and eliminating any muscle imbalances and improper movement that puts you at risk in the first place, so you no longer have to worry about having the same problem in the future.

Contact us today for our sciatic pain treatment plan
and sciatica information.
(858) 481-1438



Dr. Dawn Liu, Ph.D., D.C., L.Ac
Dr. Anna Phillips, D.C., M.S.
David Snyder, L.Ac., C.Ht
Action Chiropractic & Wellness
312 S. Cedros Ave, Ste 326
Solana Beach, CA 92075

Call: (858) 481-1438