Chiropractic For Sciatica Pain

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica, generally speaking, is caused by inflammation of the sciatic nerves which run from the spinal column down through each of the legs. This inflammation is typically the direct result of a damaged or herniated disc. These discs, which sit between each of the spinal vertebrae, are tough, jelly like rings that protect the nerves travelling to and from the spinal cord itself as the spine compresses throughout the day. When the spine is moved abnormally through heavy lifting or injury, the discs can rupture, limiting their ability to absorb the compressive forces they’re continuously exposed to. As a result, any nerve that happens to run through the area that’s now being compressed is pinched. More often than not with these kinds of injuries, the pinched nerve in question is the Sciatic nerve. The chiropractic treatment for sciatic pain can relieve the chronic pain of this nerve compression using chiropractic manipulation and spinal decompression techniques.

When the Sciatic nerve is compressed the pain it causes can travel the length of the nerve all the way into the leg.

How do I know if I have Sciatica?

The pain from sciatica can manifest itself in a variety of ways but most often it’s described as:

  1. Sharp Electric Shock Pain
  2. Tingling
  3. Numbness
  4. Burning Sensations
  5. Weakness in the legs and feet
  6. Muscle Spasms

All of which can travel from the back to the buttocks and legs. Though the pain is sometimes just a manageable inconvenience, more often than not it can be debilitating, severely decreasing quality of life.

Because the source of the pain is a compressive force caused by motion of the spinal vertebrae, various motions can cause the pain to flare up. These include but are not limited to prolonged sitting or standing, jerking motions such as those from sneezing and laughing, and bending backwards. Left untreated this pain can worsen overtime if the herniated disc causing the pinched nerve is not allowed to heal.

What treatments are available?

For cases in which the pain is not debilitating or worsening, patients make seek to treat their symptoms with the following options:

  1. Over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  2. Avoiding the activities that cause pain
  3. Alternating cold and hot compresses
  4. Lying flat on your back with a pillow between your knees

When simple pain management strategies no longer work however, seeing a professional may be necessary.

Surgical and Non-surgical Treatments:

Depending on the severity of the spinal compression and disc herniation causing the sciatica, several non-surgical options are available including ultrasound stimulation, trans-electrical nerve stimulation (also called TENS), chiropractic manipulation, and spinal decompression therapy.

Ultrasound and TENS both are used to treat the muscle spasms and sharp pain associated with Sciatica although they do this through differing methods. Ultrasound heats tissue, increasing circulation which helps to loosen tight muscles and release tension. By contrast, TENS stimulates muscle contraction and release through varying electric impulses in order to lessen pain.

Because ultimately Sciatica is caused a misalignment or ruptured spinal disc, it is unlikely that ultrasound or TENS alone will fully and permanently eliminate the symptoms. For this reason, chiropractors often choose to treat Sciatica using Chiropractic Manipulation techniques as well as Spinal Decompression.

Chiropractic manipulation involves painlessly but forcibly realigning the body to its original state. In treating Sciatica, this often means the realignment of spinal vertebrae and discs to relieve pressure on the Sciatic Nerve.

During Spinal Decompression, the constant compressive force gravity places on the spinal column is temporarily relieved, allowing the inter-vertebral discs to heal. By relieving that pressure, even temporarily, spinal discs are allowed to heal and return to naturally preventing the compressive forces on the Sciatic Nerve.

Finally, Sciatica can be treated with surgery to prevent the Sciatic Nerve from being compressed. This procedure often involves a discectomy, literally the removal of a section of bone and/or disc to prevent compression of the nerve. Because of the risks inherent in any spinal surgery, we recommend patients with Sciatica exhaust all other options before undergoing such a treatment.

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