San Francisco Patients Ask: Is Sciatica Hereditary?

Patients suffering from sciatica may experience pain when standing up from a seated position or walking a short distance. Sciatica is a very common condition that affects up to 40% of the population. While the condition usually resolves on its own, it can last several weeks or longer in some people and may require medical treatment.

This article will explain how hereditary spine conditions, such as scoliosis, anatomical short leg, or degenerative disc disease, can lead to sciatica. We will provide a brief overview and detail common symptoms of the condition before introducing how PostureWorks helps patients suffering from the condition by providing effective treatment.

What Is Sciatica?

Sciatica (or lumbar radiculopathy) is a condition affecting the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg. Patients with the condition will experience pain that radiates down the same corresponding areas, from the glute to the foot.

Sciatica occurs when the nerve at the root of the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed, irritated, or compressed. Compression of the nerve can be caused by a herniated disk or narrowing of the spinal canal called stenosis.

Sciatica can present as acute or chronic. The condition is known as acute sciatica for patients suffering from sciatic pain for less than eight weeks or less. Chronic sciatica occurs when symptoms last for more than eight weeks.

Symptoms of Sciatica

It’s important to know that while the signs and symptoms of sciatica can vary, pain radiating down the sciatic nerve from the glute, back of the leg, and into the foot is the most common symptom.

If a patient’s leg pain does not travel down the sciatic nerve into the foot, remaining centered in the glute, quad, or hamstring, it is likely caused by another condition—such as nerve root irritation or compression in the lower spine, stenosis, or arthritis.

Common symptoms of sciatica include: 

  • Burning, shooting, or radiating pain that ranges from mild to severe along the sciatic nerve—from the foot into the lower back, the hips, buttocks, and legs
  • Paresthesia which presents as unpleasant tingling (pins and needles) sensation in the leg, foot, and toes
  • Muscle weakness or numbness in the leg and foot
  • Discomfort when sitting or moving the affected leg
  • Difficulty moving the leg or foot

Common Causes: Is Sciatica Hereditary?

Some evidence suggests sciatica may have a genetic origin. Hereditary conditions such as scoliosis, pelvic and leg asymmetry, and spinal anatomical issues can predispose a person to develop sciatica.

Common causes of sciatica include:

  • Leg Asymmetry (shorter leg): Over 44% of the general population can have a shorter leg without experiencing any symptoms. Of symptomatic individuals, approximately 75% have underlying leg asymmetry. While having a shorter leg is common, it can become a problem when walking on flat surfaces, causing an imbalance in the muscles of the pelvis and sacrum, where the sciatic nerves exit. This imbalance can cause tightness and tension, nerve compression, and even circulation problems.
  • Pelvic Asymmetry: Pelvic asymmetry can cause stress and strain in the L5-S1 discs and pressure in the sacroiliac (SI) joints where the sciatic nerves travel before exiting into the leg, putting additional pressure on the hips and glutes and leading to nerve entrapment.
  • Scoliosis: Scoliosis is a hereditary condition that can affect the lower back and cause sciatic nerve irritation. Scoliosis causes an uneven weight distribution in the torso, which can cause increased pressure in the lower back, pelvis, glutes, and piriformis muscle (a muscle that wraps around the sciatic nerve).
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: While degenerative disc disease is not hereditary, it can  cause sciatica. The discs in the intervertebral joints dehydrate and harden and can cause bone-on-bone abrasion and the formation of bone spurs. Thinning discs can also cause foramen to close, resulting in sciatic nerve root entrapment. This condition can also result in herniated or bulging discs, which can compress the spinal cord and sciatic nerve root.

Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica

Chiropractic care is an effective, safe, and natural sciatica treatment that can relieve pain without the use of pain medication. Many cases of mild, acute sciatica are self-resolving, which means that the pain goes away on its own and without treatment. Treatment is strongly advised for patients suffering from chronic pain and muscle weakness. Even in acute sciatica cases, a chiropractic exam is recommended to investigate the underlying cause.

If you have sciatica and want to get chiropractic treatment, you must first have a physical exam.

At PostureWorks, your chiropractor will review your medical history and assess your specific symptoms to rule out underlying causes of sciatic pain, such as inflammation, injury, pelvic and leg asymmetry, abnormal spinal curvature, and other spinal problems.

  • Chiropractic Adjustments: Chiropractic adjustments to the lower back and SI joints can help improve mobility and reduce inflammation around the sciatic nerve. In some cases, where the nerve is entrapped by muscle tension, adjustments may be the solution to relieve muscle spasms and reduce inflammation.
  • Muscle Therapy: Muscle therapy, including myofascial release, can help treat scar tissue and relax the muscles surrounding the nerve into the hip, glute, and back of the leg, resulting in pain relief.
  • Chiropractic BioPhysics®: Advanced sciatica treatment may be required to help repair herniated discs into their natural resting position and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve and spinal cord. In these cases, PostureWorks will create a comprehensive treatment plan and perform advanced therapies to help a patient return to a pain-free lifestyle. Your chiropractor will look for signs of asymmetry and postural issues, such as lumbar spine curvature loss. Treatment for sciatic pain will depend on the underlying cause and may include a lift in the shoe (orthotics) to create balance, spinal traction to correct spinal misalignments, and exercise to help strengthen and pull the body into a healthy, balanced posture. 

PostureWorks—Chiropractic BioPhysics® Treatment of Sciatica

Sciatica can be a debilitating condition for those who suffer from it. In some cases, patients may self-treat pain with anti-inflammatory medications rather than investigate the underlying cause. Unfortunately, if the underlying causes of sciatic pain are not addressed early on, it can lead to chronic sciatic pain, unexpected doctor visits, and the need for more advanced treatment in the future. If you’re having symptoms of sciatic pain, our chiropractors at PostureWorks can help.

PostureWorks renders non-surgical structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture and can diagnose and treat sciatic pain. When you work with a Chiropractic BioPhysics® provider, such as the doctors at PostureWorks, they look at your entire medical history and provide a biometric analysis of your spine and posture to give you a clear picture of the origin of your pain. With analysis, a personalized treatment plan consisting of postural exercises, neuromuscular re-education, and spinal alignment traction is created to help realign your spine and relieve pressure from your nerves to drastically improve the quality of your life.

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

If you’re asking yourself, “Is Sciatica Hereditary?” or want to learn more about chiropractic treatment of sciatica, contact us today!

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