Sciatica is nerve irritation of the sciatic nerve in the low back, causing pain or numbness into one or both legs. It can come from many different origins, but the most common are: mis-aligned vertebra, herniated disc, compressed disc, fractured vertebra, damaged nerve, swollen ligament or tendon, missing muscle, etc …
Most sciatica problems can be treated and resolved without surgery, if treated immediately. The main symptoms that are serious and should be looked at by your health care provider are inability to urinate or have a bowel movement and foot drop (unable to lift foot). Pain on coughing and sneezing are also serious and should be checked by your doctor if they do not subside with in 48 hours.
Chiropractic can help treat sciatica by reducing inflammation and spasms of muscles, reducing joint adjustments, re-aligning and decompressing the spinal and reducing nerve swelling. Most chiropractors will take a spinal x-ray before treatments begin. I recommend seeing a chiropractor that uses therapies (heat, ice, ultrasound, e-stim, traction, etc.) in their office to help reduce spasms and swelling. If sciatica symptoms persists for more than 2 weeks after beginning treatments, it is time go get an MRI of the lumbar spine to determine the severity and the origin of the condition.
Stretching regularly will reduce muscle spasms that may be around the sciatic nerve and causing irritation. The sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis muscle, and if it is in spasm the nerve will become irritated and elicit pain. Pregnancy often causes muscle spasms in the piriforms muscle causing sciatica. I recommend specific low back stretches (piriformis, pelvic tilt, pelviic twisting, knee to chest, and cross over stretches) to reduce and prevent sciatica.
With age comes spinal degeneration. The spine is weight bearing and will eventually wear out over time. Degeneration causes stenosis (narrowing of the holes the nerves come out of) and can cause sciatica. This is serious and usually requires surgery or spinal injections.
Proper hydration is important to maintain muscle and disc vitality. Try to drink 1/2 oz. of water per lb. of your body weight per day. If you weigh 200 lbs. try to drink 100 oz. of water a day. Joint supplements are also recommended. I recommend glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, msm, and turmeric daily. These supplements reduce inflation and also provide nutrients to aid the joint for degeneration. There are many companies that sell these combinations.
Sciatica is not to be taken lightly. It can cause permanent damage to the nerve if it is not treated immediately. See your medical doctor or a chiropractor if you are unsure.