Alternating Sciatica: What It Is and What You Can Do To Find Relief in Lakewood, CO

A man stands in his living room grabbing his left leg while a red aura shows the location of alternating sciatica pain.

Sciatica is a common condition that negatively impacts the lives of millions of Americans. In fact, around 40% of Americans will experience it at some point in their lives.

However, what is less common is a relatively rare type of sciatica known as alternating sciatica, which can be frustrating and sometimes excruciating for those experiencing it. Thankfully, there are treatment options, such as chiropractic care, that have been shown to dramatically improve and even eliminate the many symptoms associated with sciatica.

If you’re concerned that you may have alternating sciatica, continue reading for more information. 

Sciatica 101 

Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve, the longest and thickest nerve in the entire body. This nerve originates in the gluteal area of the lower back and emerges from the pelvis, extending through the legs and into the feet. It provides the feeling of sensation as well as movement to many areas of the lower extremities, making it an extremely important part of the nervous system.

Graphic showing the sciatic nerve in the body

Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or damage to the sciatic nerve that causes it to become irritated and inflamed. The sciatic nerve has specific nerve roots that are located in the lower back or lumbar region of the body. Their location in a weight-bearing portion of the body means that they are susceptible to irritation when the nerves become compressed from a variety of general causes, including postural irregularities, herniated discs, leg length inequalities, and bone spurs. 

Sciatica causes a variety of symptoms, such as:

  • Pain in the back, hips, buttocks, or legs, ranging in intensity from mild to sharp, intense sensations that can sometimes feel like burning
  • Feelings of increased weight or heaviness in the affected leg
  • “Pins and needles” sensations in the affected leg or feet
  • Weakness in the lower back or areas of the affected leg 
  • Pain when bending forward/backward or when twisting the abdomen

Alternating Sciatica and Other Types of Sciatica

Typically, sciatica affects one side of the body; however, in rare instances, sciatica can affect both legs alternately. This is appropriately referred to as alternating sciatica. There are also other forms of sciatica that have different causes and affect the body in different ways. 

The table below details alternating sciatica and other forms of sciatica, their causes, and their distinct characteristics.

Types of Sciatica
Specific CausesSpecific Characteristics
Acute standard sciatica
  • Injury to the lower back or pelvis (e.g., from weightlifting)
  • Repetitive, extended periods of sitting
  • Postural irregularities
  • Symptoms affect one leg
  • Typically lasts 2-3 days
  • 1-2 week recovery period
Chronic standard sciatica
  • Postural irregularities
  • Herniated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Arthritic inflammation
  • Leg length inequality
  • Symptoms affect one leg
  • Can last and flare up for many years
  • Symptoms recur without treatment
Alternating sciatica
  • Postural issues
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction or degeneration of the SI joint
  • Sacroiliac arthritis
  • Symptoms affect one leg at a time but can alternate between the two
  • Can last and flare up for many years
  • Symptoms recur without treatment
  • Symptoms in one leg can be different or more intense than in the other
Bilateral sciatica
  • Disc or vertebrae degeneration in the spine
  • Symptoms affect both legs at the same time
  • Can last and flare up for many years
  • Symptoms recur without treatment
  • Symptoms in one leg can be different or more intense than in the other
Referred sciatica
  • Muscle or joint inflammation in another area that refers pain and mimics sciatica
  • Dull ache in the back that can mimic sciatica symptoms in the leg
  • Does not cause tingling or numbness

The type of sciatica that you may experience will wholly depend on the underlying condition and how that condition causes the sciatic nerve to experience force, pressure, or irritation.

What Can Be Done About Alternating Sciatica?

Coping with alternating sciatica symptoms can be more difficult than with standard sciatica symptoms because both legs are affected. Additionally, alternating sciatica has unique causes, such as dysfunction of the SI joint, which is very different from most joints.

The SI joint connects the spine and pelvis, and instead of providing a range of movement like most other joints, its main function is to provide support and stability for the spine. When it becomes injured or the cartilage in the joint deteriorates, excess pressure is applied to the sciatic nerves that are rooted in the region, causing alternating sciatica.

Chiropractic Treatment for Alternating Sciatica

The most effective treatment options for alternating sciatica, such as chiropractic care, work because they target the actual cause of sciatica rather than only the immediate symptoms. 

Such treatments include:

  • Chiropractic massage therapy: Muscle therapies soothe and relax the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the sciatic nerve, reducing the inflammation and swelling that is placing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Chiropractic adjustments: A chiropractor uses the hands or a small device to apply gentle, controlled force to the joints in the spine and pelvis. This increases mobility and reduces inflammation, irritation, and pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Pelvic realignment: By addressing postural imbalances in the pelvis, the strain on the SI joint, and by extension the sciatic nerve, is reduced.
  • Corrective stretches and exercises: Stretches and exercises designed to target the muscles in the lower back and pelvis not only ensure that the sciatic nerve does not experience excess stress but also ensure that the body is trained to maintain greater stability and hold proper posture.

The most effective treatments for alternating sciatica involve identifying and directly treating the underlying cause of your sciatica. That’s why you should partner with a chiropractor who is equipped to do just that.

PostureWorks Provides Powerful and Lasting Sciatica Relief

The experts at PostureWorks understand how frustrating alternating sciatica can be, and it requires a unique approach for truly long-lasting relief. Chiropractic BioPhysics® is the foundation for our treatment plans because it allows us to properly analyze your medical health using a combination of biology, physiology, physics, geometry, and anatomy to identify the cause of your sciatica.

Our comprehensive analysis allows us to create a customized, non-invasive treatment plan designed to address your alternating sciatica directly. This way, you can get back to living a pain-free life. 

Contact us today to learn more information on alternating sciatica or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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