Chiropractic Treatment For Sciatica
Many people make the mistake of believing that chiropractic is only used to treat back pain. While chiropractors are highly qualified in this area, there are many spinal conditions that cause pain in other parts of the body. One such condition is sciatica, that is characterized by a sudden onset of pain in the leg.
Sciatica itself isn't a medical condition; rather, it is the term used to refer to the symptoms of an underlying condition. These symptoms are typically taken to be a sharp, shooting pain that runs from the lower back and into the leg. Sometimes, this can travel further towards the foot and toes, and may be felt as a burning or tingling sensation. Within medical circles, there are two classifications for sciatica:
- Neurological - This refers to pain from the nerve. Neurological sciatica is usually felt as a shooting pain that comes with a dull background ache. It is a chronic condition that never goes away completely.
- Referred - Sciatica from referred pain is due to a muscle and joint problem in the lumbar spine. This is usually experienced as a dull, aching pain and does not have the sharp sensation associated with a damaged nerve. Patients with referred sciatica usually feel more pain in the lower back than in the leg.
What Causes It?
Sciatica derives its name from the sciatic nerve; the long nerve that travels from the lumbar spine and down each leg. As such, the underlying problems relate to the nervous system and are typically caused by one of the following:
- A disc herniation that causes excessive pressure on the lumbar nerve roots.
- A trapped nerve in the lower back that is affecting the sciatic nerve.
- Muscle tightness around the lower back and buttocks that cause pain to be felt in the upper leg.
In order to trace the exact cause of the symptoms, it's important to have a thorough check-up by a qualified professional. Your local chiropractor will be able to do this, and will be able to carry out neuromuscular tests that check the extent (and cause) of any underlying problems.
Can Chiropractic Treatment Help?
The short answer to this is yes, absolutely. Of course, the extent to which chiropractic care can help varies with each case; however, the vast majority of sciatica patients can experience relief from undergoing chiropractic treatment.
Your first port-of-call may be to a doctor's office; however, doctors tend to approach the problem from a suppressive point of view. This means they are likely to administer you painkillers to suppress the pain, rather than treating the underlying condition. In severe cases, you may be referred to a surgeon; however, this should always be considered as the last option.
As sciatica is caused by a mechanical problem in the spine, it makes sense that you should seek a functional treatment. Chiropractic care offers this form of treatment – by restoring your spine to its natural form, it will be able to heal itself more efficiently. Typically, a chiropractor will use a combination of the following treatments:
- Manual adjustments.
- Gentle stretching.
- Cryotherapy (ice treatment).
The manual adjustments administered by a chiropractor will take pressure off the nerve and allow the spine to return to its natural shape. When carried out alongside stretching and massage to relax the muscles, the central nervous system will be able to work more easily which will hopefully reduce your painful symptoms.
Note however, that although surgery should only be considered in the most extreme of cases, there are situations where it is necessary. Such situations typically arise when the sciatica symptoms are associated with other symptoms, such as loss of bladder control or numbness. These symptoms typically indicate a more serious problem that can only be rectified through invasive surgery.
For more information, contact an experienced chiropractor in your area.