Chiropractic Treatment For Sciatica
The treatment of sciatica with standard chiropractic techniques has become increasingly common over the last two decades. In fact, the Doctors of Chiropractic Medicine (DC) officially recognizes sciatica as a fully treatable ailment that falls under the umbrella of chiropractic medicine. In the article below we’ll walk you through what sciatica is and how sciatica is treated through chiropractic medicine. We’ll also go into the specifics on treatment techniques and explain how they are able to relieve the severe pain caused by this health ailment.
What is Sciatica?
For those of you that are unfamiliar with sciatica, it is a type of severe pain that occurs along the full route of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve travels from the lower back and runs all the way down through the hips, across the buttocks, and down into each leg. There is a sciatic nerve that runs down both the right and left leg, branching out from the spinal cord. Typically, the pain caused by sciatica only affects the left or right side of the body, with it rarely affecting both sides simultaneously.
The most common underlying cause of sciatica is a herniated disk, spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spine, or bone spurs. Any of these underlying issues causes the sciatic nerve to become inflamed, which in turn causes the primary symptoms of sciatica, which are pain and numbness in one leg.
Despite the fact that back pain and other symptoms of sciatica can be extremely severe, the ailment is primarily treated by non-surgical means. A standard sciatica treatment plan undertaken by a trained and licensed chiropractor can usually cure or drastically reduce all sciatica symptoms without so much as a needle or any medication ever being administered. In cases where sciatica requires surgery, the people afflicted with the ailment are usually suffering some the most extreme symptoms that the ailment causes, which are bladder incontinence, extreme bowel changes, and leg weakness severe enough to cause muscle atrophy.
A More In-depth Look at The Symptoms of Sciatica
As we mentioned above, the trademark symptom of sciatica is best described as a severe pain that travels from the lumbar area of the spine, over the buttocks, and down either the right or left leg. The pain typically radiates along the entire nerve path, rather than only being present in certain sections of the sciatic nerve. This pain is known to reach as far down into the leg as the lower calf muscle.
The level of pain that sciatica sufferers experience can be wide-ranging. Some people only experience a very light or mild pain sensation, while other sciatica sufferers experience pain so server that it is hard to even walk. The pain isn’t always sharp like typical nerve pain, instead, it can sometimes feel like a pulsating burning sensation mixed with bouts of numbness that come and go. Some sciatica sufferers have even described the pain as feeling like a strong jolt of electricity that a person would typically feel while being electrocuted. All of the symptoms are known to worsen from remaining seated or sedentary for too long. The sciatica pain can also be triggered by coughing, sneezing, or other sudden movements of the body.
Receiving a Proper Diagnosis of Sciatica is Crucial
Due to the fact that sciatica can be caused by other systemic health issues, some of them quite severe, it is extremely important that the issue is properly diagnosed. If a doctor or chiropractor has a patient experiencing symptoms that they believe are sciatica, then typically the first step will be to identify the primary underlying cause. Pinpointing the cause usually involves taking a very close look at the long term medical history of the patient. Other extensive neurological and physical examinations are also undertaken.
The primary diagnostic tests used to identify sciatica are CT scans, x-rays, MRIs, and other electrodiagnostic tests that can analyze the electromyography or nerve conduction velocity. These diagnostic tests are usually accurate enough to pinpoint the exact cause of sciatica, helping doctors and chiropractors in formulating an effective treatment strategy to cure the ailment.
Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica
Unlike many forms of standard medicine, including surgical intervention, chiropractic remedies are non-invasive, all-natural, drug-free, and seek to assist the body in healing itself. Any form of restricted spinal movement will usually lead to severe pain, nerve inflammation, and decreased motor movement function. Treating the root cause of such movement restrictions are usually the primary focal point of sciatica chiropractic treatment strategies.
The type of chiropractic-driven therapy that a sciatica patient will receive depends completely on what the underlying cause of the ailment is. The treatment plans will usually involve hot and cold therapies, ultrasound treatment, minor and major spinal column adjustments or manipulation, and TENS. In the following article section, we’ll take a much closer look at each of these highly effective treatment options.
The 4 Primary Sciatica Chiropractic Treatment Options
1. Ultrasound – This high tech treatment option involves the use of sound waves that form a very gentle heat that is able to deeply penetrate the body’s tissues. Similar to the effects of hot and cold therapy, ultrasound treatments rapidly increase blood circulation to a specific area, which in turn causes an increased immune response. Ultrasound therapy is able to target the specific route of the sciatic nerve which will almost immediately reduce nerve inflammation, swelling, back and leg stiffness, numbness, and any muscle spasms caused by the ailment. Each year the technology driving ultrasound treatments gets more advanced, more pin-point accurate, and much more effective.
2. TENS – Known officially as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, a TENS unit is a very small battery powered machine that is able to stimulate muscles throughout the body. It’s a portable device, so sciatica sufferers are able to take the unit home and continue their TENS treatments at their convenience. This therapy involves placing a series of small electrodes to the effected sciatic pathway and then sending a small electrical impulse through the electrodes and into the muscle tissue. This causes the muscles to slightly contract, stimulating blood blow to the area which can dramatically reduce sciatica-caused spine and leg stiffness, as well as dramatically increase spinal and leg mobility. This is a go-to therapy for most chiropractors treating sciatica.
3. Hot and Cold Therapy – This therapy option seeks to apply hot and cold sensations to the effected sciatica nerve path. When a portion of the body experiences rapid warming and cooling, this causes the blood vessels in that area to quickly dilate. This dilation causes increased blood flow to the area and allows the body to heal and reduce inflammation in the afflicted area much more quickly through a heightened immune response. Hot and cold treatments usually involve ice and hot packs, hot and cold baths or immersion, cryotherapy, and massages.
4. Spinal Adjustments or Manipulation – Arguably the most important and effective way of treating the primary underlying cause of sciatica, spinal adjustments and manipulation can realign the spinal column and take pressure off of compressed nerves. If a disk in the spine is herniated, then this spinal manipulation treatment can correct that issue as well. The primary underlying cause of sciatica is rooted in problems in and around the lumbar area of the spine. Spinal manipulation along with other secondary chiropractic treatments can fully correct the root cause or causes of sciatica and fully cure the ailment.
Once the spinal issues are resolved, typically in only several weeks, the remaining chiropractic treatments typically involve reducing the inflammation as quickly as possible to cure the sciatica symptoms.