Sciatica is a common and painful nerve condition that is routinely treated by chiropractors. The condition is characterized by pain that starts in the buttocks or lower back and shoots down the legs. This pain can occur on one or both sides. Sciatic pain can differ in frequency and severity from mild to excruciating and occasional to constant.
The pain may be aching, dull, sharp or may feel like electrical shocks, burning sensations or pins and needles. Patients may also experience numbness, tingling and muscle spasms.
What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by pinched nerves, which are often the result of another problem like misaligned vertebrae, pregnancy, constipation, diabetes, poor posture and bulging or herniated vertebral discs.
The condition can also result from problems with the piriformis muscle, which is known as piriformis syndrome. This muscle starts at the base of the spine and connects to the upper portion of the femur, or thigh bone. Its purpose is to enable rotation of the hips, and the sciatic nerve is located below this muscle. The piriformis can become injured due to issues like falls, arthritis or having one leg longer than the other. Injury causes the piriformis to become inflamed, and the swelling compresses the sciatic nerve.
How Can Chiropractors Help Sciatica?
The method of chiropractic care for sciatica depends on what caused your particular case. Treatment can involve a variety of methods like hot and cold therapy, spinal manipulation and TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Here are some details of each:
- Hot and Cold Therapy: Controls swelling and pain
- TENS: Uses a small, battery-operated machine that uses variable electrical currents to stimulate the muscles. This method is effective at reducing muscle spasms and pain, and it's widely used by physical rehabilitation therapists.
- Spinal Manipulation: Spinal manipulation is the foundation of chiropractic care. The goal is to address restricted spinal motion and realign the vertebrae back into their correct positions. This treatment helps minimize irritation of the nerves, which is typically to blame for the muscle spasms, inflammation and pain that are seen with sciatica. Spinal manipulation does not cause any pain and is a safe and effective treatment for a variety of conditions.
Limitations To Chiropractic Treatment
In some cases, sciatic pain may be the result of conditions that chiropractic treatment cannot help. If your chiropractor discovers that your sciatica would benefit from a different type of treatment, he or she will refer you to a doctor in the appropriate specialty. However, continuing to see a chiropractor can still benefit your condition by helping to manage symptoms.