Doctors of Chiropractic (DC), or chiropractors, regularly treat sciatica. Sciatica is characterized by pain that originates in the low back or buttocks which travels down one or both legs, into the foot. Sciatic nerve pain varies in intensity and frequency; minimal, moderate, acute and chronic, intermittent, frequent or constant.
Pain is described as dull, achy, sharp, toothache-like, pins and needles or similar to electric shocks. Other symptoms associated with sciatica include numbness, burning and tingling sensations as well as weakness. Sciatica can also be called radiating or referred pain, neuropathy, or neuralgia. A common misconception, however, is that sciatica is a disease, nevertheless, sciatica is really a collection of symptoms belonging to a specific disorder.
Sciatica Is Caused by Nerve Compression
Sciatica is generally brought on by sciatic nerve compression. Disorders known to trigger sciatic nerve pain include lumbar spine subluxations, or misaligned vertebral bodies, herniated or bulging discs (slipped disks), pregnancy and childbirth, tumors, and even as a result of non-spinal disorders, such as diabetes, constipation, or sitting on one’s back pocket wallet.
One common cause of sciatica is piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is named after the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is located in the lower part of the spine, connects to the thighbone, and also assists in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve runs under the piriformis muscle. This muscle is susceptible to injury from sports injuries, a slip-and-fall accident, hip arthritis, or due to a difference in leg length. Such situations can cause cramping and spasm to develop in the piriformis muscle, thus pinching the sciatic nerve and causing pain and discomfort.
Sciatic nerve compression may lead to the loss of feeling (sensory loss), paralysis of one limb or group of muscles (monoplegia), as well as sleeplessness or insomnia.
Proper Diagnosis of Sciatica Is Vital
Since there are many disorders that cause sciatica, a healthcare professional’s initial step would be to determine what is causing the patient’s sciatica symptoms. Forming a diagnosis entails a thoughtful review of the patient’s medical history, as well as a physical and neurological examination. Diagnostic testing involves a x ray, MRI, CT scan and/or electrodiagnostic tests (nerve conduction speed, electromyography). These examinations and tests help to detect possible contraindications to spinal adjustments and other chiropractic treatment methods.
Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatic Nerve Pain
The objective of chiropractic treatment for sciatic nerve pain is to assist the body’s capacity to heal itself. It is based upon the scientific principle that limited spinal movement contributes to pain and decreased function and functionality. Chiropractic care is non-invasive (nonsurgical) and drug-free.
The type of chiropractic treatment provided is dependent upon the cause of the patient’s sciatica. A sciatic nerve pain chiropractic treatment program may include several different therapies such as ice/cold treatments, ultrasound, TENS, and spinal adjustments (sometimes called spinal manipulation). Below are additional details on these chiropractic treatment modalities.
- Ice/Cold therapy reduces inflammation and helps to control sciatic nerve pain.
- Ultrasound is mild warmth created by sound waves which penetrate deep into cells. Ultrasound increases circulation and helps to decrease muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, stiffness, and pain.
- TENS unit (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) is a small box-like, battery-powered, portable muscle stimulating machine. Various intensities of electrical current control acute pain and reduce muscle spasms. Larger versions of this home-use TENS units are utilized by chiropractors, physical therapists and other rehabilitation healthcare professionals.
- Adjustments (Spinal Manipulation) At the heart of chiropractic care are spinal adjustments. Spinal manipulation frees restricted movement of the spine and helps to restore misaligned vertebral bodies with their appropriate position in the spine. Spinal adjustment helps to decrease nerve irritability responsible for causing inflammation, muscle soreness, pain, and other symptoms associated with sciatica. Adjustments should not be painful. Spinal manipulation is demonstrated to be safe and effective.
In college and during their training, students of chiropractic understand many different adjustment techniques permitting them to take care of various sorts of subluxations and spinal disorders. Chiropractic techniques vary in the swift high velocity thrust to people that unite minimal pressure and mild pressure. Mastery of each technique is an art which needs great precision and skill. Spinal adjustments and manipulations is the treatment that differentiates chiropractic care from other medical areas.
Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Insight
Sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, is identified as radiating pain and discomfort along the length of the sciatic nerve, which travels from the low back down the buttocks and into one or both legs, occasionally reaching all the way down to the calf and foot. Approximately more than 3 million cases of sciatica are reported in the United States each year, where it is generally caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve as a result of a bulging or herniated disc. Chiropractic care is a well-known, alternative treatment option commonly utilized to help improve a variety of spinal health issues, including sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain.
Chiropractic’s Limitations in Treating Sciatica
Sciatica may be caused by other disorders beyond the scope of chiropractic clinic. If the doctor of chiropractic, or chiropractor, determines the patient’s disease requires treatment by another kind of doctor, then the patient is referred to another specialist. In some cases, the chiropractor can continue to treat the patient and also co-manage the patient’s care with the other specialist. The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic as well as to spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Curated by Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Sciatica
Sciatica is medically referred to as a collection of symptoms, rather than a single injury and/or condition. Symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, or sciatica, can vary in frequency and intensity, however, it is most commonly described as a sudden, sharp (knife-like) or electrical pain that radiates from the low back down the buttocks, hips, thighs and legs into the foot. Other symptoms of sciatica may include, tingling or burning sensations, numbness and weakness along the length of the sciatic nerve. Sciatica most frequently affects individuals between the ages of 30 and 50 years. It may often develop as a result of the degeneration of the spine due to age, however, the compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve caused by a bulging or herniated disc, among other spinal health issues, may also cause sciatic nerve pain.