We’ve all heard the term “sciatica.” Anyone who’s had it knows it is one of the most painful conditions that can be experienced. This article will describe sciatica, it’s cause, and a safe, gentle form of treatment that allows the avoidance of back surgery.
Strictly speaking, sciatica involves the pinching of the sciatic nerve. Five smaller nerves exit the lower spine and merge together to form the sciatic nerve. It is the largest nerve in the body (about the size of a finger) and also the longest nerve of the body, with fibers running from the lower back to the toes. Pain of the sciatic nerve is termed “sciatica.”
Sciatica, many times, is caused by a problem with a lower back intervertebral disc. These discs can bulge, herniate, rupture or protrude backward and come in contact with smaller nerves or the sciatic nerve itself. The symptoms of sciatica include lower back pain, pain in the buttocks, and pain down the side or back of the thigh, calf and foot. Numbness and tingling can also occur in the lower extremity.
Diagnosis of sciatica begins with a doctor taking history and performing a physical exam. Typically x-rays and possibly MRI imaging is obtained. Treatment can take many routes but seeing a chiropractor for care is a non-surgical, drug-free approach that many will follow.
Chiropractors address sciatica by looking for the cause of the problem. As noted earlier, discs of the spine are involved. They typically become compressed and put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Therefore, a common form of treatment utilized by chiropractors is traction to decompress the intravertebral discs. Other conservative treatment modalities may involve the use of cold packs to decrease inflammation, electrical muscle stimulation to relax muscles in spasm, and gentle chiropractic manipulations to realign malpositions of the spine and pelvis.
Chiropractors can also apply deep pressure, trigger point therapy, to muscles in the hip area and along the lower spine.
Lifestyle recommendations and home exercises can be an important part of healing. Since a disc problem causing sciatica is usually worse in the morning it is important that patients begin their day slowly with a very gentle warm-up routine. Those suffering from sciatica find that allowing their back to warm-up makes the rest of the day go a lot easier.
Chiropractic care for sciatica generally takes several weeks to several months in duration. Since the cause of the problem originates in the lower back, any discomfort that travels down the leg is called radiating pain. During the course of healing most patients will start to see a decrease of their leg pain. This is a positive sign, and it is usually just a matter of time and treatment before the pain is fully eliminated.
The good news is that for over 125 years chiropractors have been helping patients heal from sciatica. Check with your chiropractor first before electing for surgery. Safe, gentle chiropractic care for sciatic nerve pain relief is, for many, the best approach.