Sciatica and Leg Pain

Sciatica, which involves 3 nerves in the low back is a common term that generally is used to describe leg pain. Sciatic pain often occurs with low back discomfort, where radiating pain is going the affected leg.

Leg pain is often thought to be correlated solely to disc herniation (degeneration/injury of a vertebral disc). In some common cases that would be true, but as Chiropractors we often ask ourselves: “Does disc herniation always cause leg pain?” and the answer is not always a definitve NO.


In some cases vertebral disc can cause direct pain to the low back tests like an MRI would have to be done to determine if it is the case. Over the years, it is inevitable that the disc may degenerate since it is a physiological process of aging. There are many bad habits that we adopt (i.e. sitting hours, wrong lifting technique, “Text Neck” etc.) that speed up this degenerative; the problem is that this is taking epidemic proportions in the population because of long working hours, stress and poor ergonomics just to name a few. 

According to studies, vertebral discs are now more prone to prolapse (first stage of disc injury) between the age of 20 and 50. In this time interval, most of the internal fluid content of the disc gets lost, the gel like portion of the discs starts to dry out faster than normal causing a lost in its softness. Thus, It might bring us to think that a dehydrated(drying) disc is healthier: No. Since the time between our 20 and 50 years of age is the one in which we make more efforts and put more load on our spines. It is essential and necessary to have constant and appropriate hydration to keep your discs functioning.

What is the cause of Sciatica and leg pain?

Most of the people with sciatica worry only about the pain. Pain is most of the time an alarm bell from your body telling us that something is wrong, not functioning correctly. At Healing Hands, it is of paramount importance to understand the primary causes of dysfunction that over time cause pain.

One of the most common causes of sciatic pain comes in fact from the pelvis. Rotation of the pelvis is most common often due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. These rotations though cause significant changes in the normal movement of the whole spine. It results in an alteration of the normal load distribution, which can over time lead to injury of ligaments or intervertebral discs.

A pelvic dysfunction can also cause leg pain even in the absence of disc herniation. The rotation of the pelvis can cause an unbalance of tension and tone of the leg musculature, causing pain.

Specific vertebral blockages (parts of the spine that do not move as they should be) can also decrease the function of some stabilising muscles. Let’s say that a spinal blockage is “switching off” your Psoas Major muscle, which is one of the muscle in your body that supports your lumbar vertebra and the intervertebral disc at the same time. In this case, the result would be an unstable spine, which can lead to muscle spasm, misalignment of the spine, inflammation and even injury of the discs and joints in the spine. At Healing Hands we aim to restore the functions of your body through the use of spinal adjustments and other modalities of treatments to create more natural support for your spine.

stages to a disc herniation

Why looking for the cause is essential?

It is essential to understand as soon as possible if a real disc herniation causes the leg pain or whether the culprit is something else, such as rotation of the pelvis, a muscular problem or a ligament overuse. We collect as many information as we can to understand where the problem is coming from so we can consequently treat the patient in the best possible way.

Some of the causes of leg pain were listed above, but as chiropractors, we always consider if a disc is damaged, injured or highly inflamed (hot disc), in order to determine if other interventions are needed other than Chiropractic. When a real injury of the intervertebral disc occurs, our priority is to reduce the inflammation in the area affected and to decrease any potential pressure if the inflamed disc-over the spinal nerve roots. With time, then we will focus to correct misalignments, articular dysfunction and restore the function of the stabilising muscles.

If you experience leg pain, you might want to get it to check to understand where your problem is coming.


Article Written By

Giacomo Ghiretti DC, MSC.

Doctor of Chiropractic

Healing Hands Chiropractic Singapore

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