Chiropractic care can effectively treat the underlying cause of sciatica while reducing symptoms. A chiropractor can provide spinal manipulations that help decrease pain, inflammation, and spasms caused by sciatica.
Depending on the underlying cause of sciatic nerve pain, a chiropractic treatment plan may include spinal adjustments, ultrasound therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and ice/cold therapy:
- Spinal manipulation: Spinal manipulation is both safe and effective for sciatica. The spine can move more freely thanks to manipulation, which also aids in repositioning misplaced vertebral bodies (subluxations) in the spinal column. Researchers advise using chiropractic manipulation before resorting to painkillers, muscle relaxants, opioids, injections, and surgery to treat lower back pain.
- Ultrasound therapy: Moderate heat produced by ultrasound therapy is due to sound waves that deeply penetrate the soft tissues of the muscles. Ultrasound therapy increases blood circulation and helps reduce muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, and stiffness.
- TENS: A TENS unit is a battery-operated portable muscle stimulator. Electrical currents of varying intensities can manage acute pain and reduce muscle spasms. Chiropractors, physical therapists, and other rehab specialists use larger variations of the home-use TENS devices.
- Ice/cold therapy: Ice/cold therapy can help reduce inflammation and manage sciatic pain.
What does sciatica feel like?
Sciatica is nerve pain in the gluteal area (buttock) caused by an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve. It is a debilitating condition associated with pain and paresthesia (numbness or tingling). The pain can radiate to one or both legs from the lower back or buttock.
Sciatica is sometimes referred to as neuralgia, neuropathy or radiating or referred pain. Sciatica is misunderstood as a disorder, but it is actually a symptom of another condition.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body that originates in the lower back and travels through the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. Although the lower back or pelvis is where sciatica develops, people with sciatica frequently experience pain or discomfort down the backs of their legs, which is often exacerbated by bending, twisting, or coughing.
This chronic condition is managed with analgesics to control pain and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation.
What causes sciatica?
Spinal discs serve as cushions to prevent vertebrae from rubbing against one another. The discs take pressure off the spine when we walk, run, sit, twist, lift, or engage in other activities. Moreover, they absorb pressure from falls.
Although a herniated disc can occur at any age, it is more common among older adults. It occurs when the jelly-like interior of a disc bulges through a tear in its outer layer. When this occurs, the substance can irritate the nerves.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows and compresses the nerves. The spinal canal protects the spinal cord and nerves that go up and down the spine. When the spinal canal compresses the nerves it can cause pain and discomfort.
- Disc degeneration
- Facet joint osteoarthritis
- Thickened ligaments
- Congenital stenosis (occurs when the spinal canal is smaller than normal at birth)
The bones in the spine are separated by discs and piled on top of one another. One of the spinal bones can move forward in proportion to the bone below it, a condition known as spondylolisthesis.
Sciatica and pressure on a nerve root can result from the L4 vertebra sliding across the L5 vertebra, which can cause a kink in the spinal canal. Spondylolisthesis is a typical occurrence in teenagers who have recurrent back discomfort. In this group, a traumatic event or a congenital abnormality are often to blame. Spondylolisthesis in adults is more typically brought on by osteoarthritis.
Any injury that damages the buttock or stretches a hamstring can cause damage to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can be caused by slips, trips, auto accidents, and sports injuries.
During the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, weight changes and loosening of ligaments can put indirect pressure on the sciatic nerve.
How to prevent sciatica
When it comes to preventing sciatica, the most important thing is to keep your body moving and improve your core stability.
- Stretching: Stretching releases pressure that builds up in your body and helps you maintain flexibility throughout your legs, pelvis, and lower back. Stretching your piriformis (the muscles at the top of your hip joints and in your buttocks) on both sides can help treat sciatica. Use a foam roller if you have trouble stretching the muscles in your lower extremities.
- Chiropractic maintenance: Visiting a chiropractor regularly throughout the year can help prevent musculoskeletal problems. Think of it as going in for a checkup to make sure that everything is functioning and moving as it should.
When should I be worried about sciatica?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention:
- Unexplained fever with back pain
- Swelling or redness on the back or spine
- Pain traveling down below the knees
- Numbness or weakness in your thigh, buttocks, pelvis, or leg
- Burning sensation during urination or blood in your urine
- Pain that awakens you at night or worsens when you lie down
- Unintentional weight loss
- Unbearably severe leg and back pain that lasts for several hours
- Muscle weakness or numbness in the same leg
- Loss of bowel or bladder control (incontinence)
- Sudden and severe pain resulting from a car accident or other trauma
Chiropractic Manipulation In The Treatment of Acute Back Pain And Sciatica With Disc Protrusion: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial of Active And Simulated Spinal Manipulations: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16517383/
Hands-on Help: How a Chiropractor Can Provide Lower Back or Sciatica Pain Relief: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/hands-on-help-how-a-chiropractor-can-provide-lower-back-or-sciatica-pain-relief/
Sciatica Chiropractic Treatment Techniques: Seven Great Methods: https://www.hospiceoftheshoals.org/2021/05/04/sciatica-chiropractic-treatment-techniques/
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