Sciatica is a pain symptom that some people experience in the buttocks or radiating down the legs. It can be experienced as a sharp pain, numbness, or pins and needles sensations in the legs. For some it may be merely an annoyance when sitting for long periods of time. For others it can be a devastating and debilitating pain that is relentless as well as a sign of something much more serious. It can be made worse by sitting, coughing, sneezing, or straining to lift etc. “True” sciatica is usually diagnosed when the pain reaches below the level of one or both knees.
Sciatica has several different causes:
- Herniated or bulging discs. This is the most common form of severe sciatica and is the most difficult to deal with and treat. Chiropractic care is often helpful for this.
- Spinal subluxation. This is a spinal vertebra that has lost its proper position and is causing a “pinched nerve” effect. It is spinal subluxations in the lower lumbar region that cause sciatica. Chiropractic treatment of sciatica involves relieving spinal subluxation.
- Muscle spasm. There are times when the sciatica can be caused by pinching of the sciatic nerve by muscle by the “piriformis” muscle. This may be the least dangerous form.
- Other causes may include advanced degenerative arthritis leading to spurs or spinal stenosis. Spondylolisthesis can also cause sciatica as it usually occurs in the low back in the area of the distribution of the sciatic nerve.
- Sitting for long periods may aggravate the sciatic nerve since it passes through the buttocks. This is especially true in thin people unless the sitting pain is caused by disc aggravation.
Common treatment of sciatica:
Medical doctors tend to treat sciatica with medicine such as muscle relaxers or pain relievers, cortisone injection and surgery. While these may be helpful in a certain number of cases, it typically does not correct the actual problem. In fact these approaches are full of their own problems, side effects, after effects etc. Once surgery is performed, there is no return to “normal” function. It is impossible due to the nature of surgery. Natural approaches like chiropractic care, specific exercise and stretches are sometimes very helpful and represent a more natural approach that facilitates the body’s own natural healing process. We always recommend conservative approaches before potentially harmful paths are taken such as the medical options listed above.
Chiropractic treatment of sciatica is based on restoring normal function to the spine and spinal joints. This, by nature, helps relieve pressure on nerves and discs. By restoring natural movement and function to the spine, you allow the disc stay hydrated and healthy. Restoring natural function, relieving pressure on the nerves and enhancing the natural healing ability of the body is the goal of chiropractic care in these cases.
Home care might involve use of ice and/or specific movements or exercises designed to naturally restore health to the lower spine. I always stress to my patients never to use heat on any pain in the body that radiates. Dealing with life’s stresses can also be helpful. It is proven that onset of low back pain and disorders can be related to periods of elevated life stress. Some patients may need to lose weight in order to relieve pressure on the back joints and discs.
Chiropractic treatment of sciatica can be very effective if used properly. Chiropractic care, home care and healthy choices are all a part of a natural approach to healing this sometimes severe nerve problem.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with sciatica it is advised you have a professional evaluation. Our office has years of experience in helping people with radiating nerve problems. Feel free to contact our office with any questions you may have.