Sciatic nerve pain can be a distracting pain that starts in the lower back and extends into one or both legs. Chiropractic care has been proven to be quite effective in sciatica treatment.
What Is Sciatica? Why Am I In Pain?
Sciatica is a severe pain in the leg caused by compression, irritation, or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerves are the largest and longest nerves in the body, reaching about the size of your thumb in diameter, and running down the back of each leg. Each sciatic nerve is composed of five smaller nerves that leave the spinal cord from the lower spinal column, join together and then travel down each leg. It then divides into many smaller nerves that travel to the thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot and toes. When these nerves are irritated or affected by inflammation of nearby soft tissues, doctors refer to this as sciatica.
Symptoms Of Sciatica
People with “sciatica” can suffer from a wide range of symptoms. Often the pain will come and go at times, it may be constant, but then it may subside for hours or days. Some people may feel only a dull ache or numbness, which travels down the back into the upper leg. For others, it may be intense “shooting pains” down the leg into the foot and toes.
Many factors affect the pain of sciatica. Sitting in one position for long periods of time as when driving or working at a computer can increase the pain. Working out or running, or even simple things like walking, bending, turning or standing up may be difficult and painful. Tennis or golf and other twisting activities can cause sciatica pain to flare up. For some, the pain may be in both legs or change from side to side. For a number of others, back pain may occur before the sciatica itself. In the most severe cases, sciatica can damage reflexes, or even cause a wasting of the calf muscles.
Causes Of Sciatica
Because the sciatic nerve is so long, irritation can occur at many points. The first place is the lower back. Commonly, caused by misalignment of one or more of the lumbar vertebra creating pressure on the nerve. This condition is known as a subluxation, one underlying cause of sciatica as well as many other health problems.
Another source of sciatica can be disc involvement. Discs are the cartilage-like cushions occupying the spaces between vertebrae. Serving as spinal shock absorbers, they allow the back to turn and bend normally. Trauma or injury from car accidents or falls can cause a disc to bulge to one side resulting in what many people call a “slipped disc.” The proper term is disc herniation.
Sciatica has also been linked to various non-spinal conditions. Arthritis, advanced diabetes, tumors, constipation, and even vitamin deficiencies have been reported as causes.
Finally, degeneration of the spine resulting from long-standing or neglected back problems can also irritate the sciatic nerve. Cases of sciatica have even been reported following childbirth, usually due to pressure on the spine.
Those suffering from sciatica are often in their forties and fifties. It usually begins as an acute pain in the lower back and then extends down the back of either leg. The pain usually worsens with long periods of sitting or standing.
Like a large river fed by smaller streams, five pairs of nerves exit the spine in the lower back to form the sciatic nerve located in each leg. The soft, pulpy disc between each spinal bone is often directly related to the discomfort felt in sciatic nerve pain. While a disc can’t slip, it can bulge, herniate or rupture. This can put pressure on the nearby nerves & results in swelling, inflammation, & pain form regular natural movement.
It’s easy to trace some spinal problems to an event, such as a car accident. Yet, sciatica is often the result of cumulative damage. Years of bad posture, poor muscle tone, excess weight or countless other causes set the stage. Then, something simple like bending over to tie your shoes can trigger an episode.
Spinal decay can be another culprit. Instead of disc thinning that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve roots, arthritic bone spurs can intrude into the space normally reserved for the nerve.
Treatments For Sciatica
The medical approach managing sciatica is to treat the symptoms. This may include using painkillers, muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Traction, physical therapy or injections directly into the nerve roots may also be used. In severe cases, even surgery may be tried.
The chiropractic approach to treating sciatica is to find the source of nerve irritation and relieve the pressure causing the pain. By correcting the source of the problem, the body can heal naturally without nerve interference. Sciatica, like other health conditions that can be traced to the spine, often responds dramatically to the restoration of normal spinal function through chiropractic care.
Your chiropractor’s methods will vary according to the specific source of sciatica in each case. First, a complete history is taken to determine when the problem first appeared and possible sources. Next, a complete physical and chiropractic exam is performed, and x-rays may be taken. These tests are reviewed and discussed with you with recommendations for treatment.
Treatment will vary according to the severity of the condition. With most patients, a series of adjustments to move the related vertebra back to a more normal position is helpful to reduce the pressure on the nerve. In some cases, the use of ultrasound and ice is needed. Massage therapy to reduce the pain related to muscle spasms is frequently helpful. Combining adjustments with physical therapy has proven very successful in treating most sciatica.
Can chiropractic cure sciatica?
Actually, chiropractic doesn’t cure anything! Only your body can do that. The chiropractic approach to sciatica (and other health problems) is to help restore the way your spine works, reducing nerve irritation and revitalizing your own body’s healing ability.
Sciatica often worsens with extended bed rest. Pain pills or muscle relaxers are unable to correct the nerve compression caused by a bulging disc. Physical therapy merely exercises the unstable joints. Surgery often involves cutting away disc tissue or removing bone to make room for the nerve. Fortunately, sciatica often responds well to safe & natural chiropractic care.
Improving joint motion with a series of chiropractic adjustments has produced results for millions. “Before” and “after” images of the lower back often show improved disc height and spacing. Many patients report that they can resume their lives and that their symptoms disappear without drugs or surgery.
Your chiropractic doctor is uniquely skilled to evaluate and reduce the most common cause of sciatica nerve pain. It’s the natural approach to relief and better health.
Most sciatica patients are delighted with the results they get after weeks or months of care. Naturally, this varies from patient to patient. Many discover that years of neglect have produced spinal instabilities that never fully heal. These patients elect to continue with periodic chiropractic checkups. It’s up to you. There is hope!
Fortunately, Sciatica Often Responds to Safe, natural Chiropractic Care. Don’t Wait!
Whatever the cause of sciatica, it is important to seek treatment promptly. Too many people wait, hoping the pain will go away or get better by itself. However, it is usually easier to treat a problem when it is first noticed. Too many people wait until the pain becomes unbearable, suffering needlessly. Long-term nerve damage may result this delay in seeking treatment.
The Long-Term Study & The Results
A 1990 British study compared patients who received traditional medical treatment for a variety of back related problems with others who received chiropractic care. Of 741 patients followed over three years, researchers found that those seen by chiropractic doctors experienced better results and missed less time from work.
The chiropractors at our clinics in Tucson offer you many treatment services for severe neck and back pain. Chiropractic treatment is affordable and we accept many insurance plans. Call any clinic – walk-ins are welcome.