Sciatica is one of the most painfully excruciating conditions a person may endure. In my 38 years of chiropractic practice, I have seen many patients suffering from sciatica. Recently a patient, Steve, came to my office, looking for sciatic leg pain relief. He said his discomfort hadn’t allowed him to get good night’s sleep in over a week and he had difficulty sitting for more than 10 minutes, which made it difficult for him to drive. This article will discuss the treatment techniques that gave Steve relief from sciatica.
First, it let us define sciatica. We all know the spine is made up of a column of bones. These bones are called vertebrae. The last five movable bones of the lower part of the spine are called the lumbar vertebrae. Between each of these bones are openings where nerves exit and combine in the buttock area into one large nerve called the sciatic nerve. This nerve then descends down the leg, innervating the entire lower extremity.
When an injury occurs in the lower spine, it can cause problems of misalignment of the lumbar vertebral bones and pelvis and also cause herniation, bulging and protrusion of the lumbar intervertebral discs. This injury results in a pinched sciatic nerve. The resulting pain is called sciatica or sciatic nerve pain.
It is common for the patient to have only mild pain in the lower back, but much stronger pain in the buttock and hip area and significant pain in the thigh, and/or calf. This pain can make it very difficult to sleep, sit, bend at the waist and carry objects.
Steve’s treatment involved a multifaceted approach. First, we used a specialized table Steve could lie on that provided safe, mild traction to reduce his lumbar disc protrusion. Next, we did pressure point therapy to areas of his hip, buttock and along the side of his thigh and calf to release tension and tender points. He said this, especially started to give him relief of his leg pain. We also performed gentle, chiropractic manipulations, sometimes called chiropractic adjustments, to realign his spine and pelvis so that he carried his weight evenly on both legs. With sciatica it is very common to be carrying more weight on one leg than the other. Electrical muscle stimulation was used to reduce muscle spasms of his back and buttocks.
He was given home instructions of stretching and using cold pack applications to reduce inflammation of his back. A person having a lower back problem is more vulnerable to aggravate the lower back early in the day, so he was also instructed to guard his activity during this critical time. Steve was diligent with his home care.
After the first week of treatment, his sciatica was 25% better and he was sleeping more comfortably. At the end of the second week his leg pain was lessened by 50%. At the end of four weeks, he had almost no leg pain. He was able to drive and sit longer without having to get up and stand because of his sciatic pain. It took a few more weeks to completely give him full sciatic pain, relief.
Steve was able to get sciatic pain, relief without surgery and without taking potentially addictive opioid medications. Treating sciatica truly involves teamwork between the doctor and the patient. Chiropractic care has been a conservative safe, effective, source of pain relief for sciatic nerve pain for over 125 years.
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