Banchory Chiropractic Clinic

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"Sciatica" Explained


This must be one of the most common words that we hear from patients in our office.

Many people who come in have self-diagnosed or been told by their GP that they have “sciatica”. But what does it actually mean?

Sciatica is actually what we would call an “umbrella term”. It’s literal translation from Greek is “hip pain” – but in the medical community it would be used to describe any pain around the lower back, hip, buttock, and down the leg.

It is implied that “sciatica” stems from the sciatic nerve, leading many patients to believe that they have nerve damage/trapped nerve/disc problems when in actual fact the real cause of the pain is unknown.

There are many different processes that might cause pain around the hip, buttock or down the leg. I am going to cover the most common here:

Muscular Tightness

There are muscles around the hip that can very frequently become tight and sore, usually due to posture, joint restrictions and lifestyle. Some of these muscles can develop what we call a “trigger point” which is a strange phenomenon whereby a tight muscle becomes so restricted that it begins to refer pain to another part of the body.

This can sometimes make what we do seem like voodoo – patients are often impressed when I push one particular point on their hip and suddenly they can feel the pain shooting down the leg!

The most common muscles that can create trigger points around the hip and leg are the smaller gluteal muscles (gluteus minimus and gluteus medius) and the piriformis muscles.


Structural Pelvic Imbalance

Chiropractors are trained to assess and treat structural imbalances within the pelvis. Many of our patients have some level of imbalance in their pelvises – if you think about it, hardly anything we do nowadays is perfectly symmetrical – which often results in patients favouring one side over the other, leading to pain and restriction in the joints (particularly the larger SI joint and lumbosacral joints) 


which usually results in localised back pain around the lower back and hip but in more advanced cases can send pain or even pins and needles down the leg.  This is a very common condition and is what we spend most of our time dealing with in the clinic. This often goes hand in hand with the muscular tightness mentioned above.

Piriformis Syndrome

The piriformis muscles is located right next to the sciatic nerve. In about 15% of people it is thought that an anatomical variant results in the sciatic nerve travelling right through the piriformis nerve

piriformis muscles

If you are lucky enough to have this particular anatomical variant it is quite likely that any slight tightness in your piriformis may result in more severe nerve like pain (or pins and needles/numbness) radiating down the leg.shutterstock_327383924


Disc Lesions

Often referred to as a “slipped disc”, this condition can result in severe pain in the leg, and occasionally pins and needles and numbness.  This is something that patients worry about the most but in reality is much less common than people think.  For more information on disc problems check out our blog post HERE all about disc problems.

These are the most common causes of sciatica that we encounter in the office.  There are some other causes of sciatica but I have only covered the most common ones.  It is very important not to self-diagnose and seek professional help if you suffer from any pain in your back, hip or leg.  Our chiropractors are fully qualified to assess, diagnose and treat a wide variety of problems with high levels of effectiveness.  Most patients report a significant improvement in symptoms after only 6 visits, usually less.

It should also be stated that anyone can be suffering a combination of these problems, which is why it’s important for us to tailor a specific treatment and exercise plan to each individual.

Contact us on 01330 824040 or email if you would like to make an appointment.

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Felicity Rogers

Felicity graduated from the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic in 2007 upon completion of a BSC degree in Chiropractic and has been working as a Chiropractor in the UK for over 7 years.

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