Sciatica is a common and often extremely painful lower back condition. However, it is a condition that responds well to Sciatica chiropractic care.
Symptoms of Sciatica
The most common symptoms of Sciatica include:
- numbness in the buttocks, leg or foot.
- a tingling that starts in the lower back and then travels down one leg.
- weakness in the foot, ankle or calf muscles of one leg.
- burning sensation across the lower back.
What is Sciatica?
The Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body. It starts at the back of the pelvis and runs through the buttocks and down each leg all the way to the end of the foot. If this nerve gets pinched, compressed or inflamed it can cause quite intense and debilitating pain in the lower back, thigh or calf.
In over 90% of cases Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed by a herniated disc (sometimes known as a slipped disc). When a disc that sits between the vertebrae (bones) in the spine and normally acts as a shock absorber is damaged, it can bulge out of position and press against the sciatic nerve. A herniated disc can have a wide range of causes, most commonly as a result of ageing, a sporting injury or repeated heavy lifting.
Sciatica can also be a side-effect of less common illnesses such as spinal stenosis (the narrowing of the nerve passages in the vertebrae due to calcium deposits), a growth such as a tumour on the spine or even more rarely, Cauda equina syndrome.
How does a Sciatica chiropractor confirm their diagnosis?
There are two key tests a chiropractor will perform to confirm that a patient’s pain is the result of Sciatica caused by a herniated disc. Firstly, the reflexes in the tendons of the leg will be compared to see if there is a difference between the functioning of the sciatic nerves on each side of the body. Secondly, the chiropractor will ask the patient to lie on their back and the chiropractor will then lift each straight leg in turn. When the affected leg is lifted, it may only take a few degrees of movement before the patient starts to experience increasing levels of pain. This is because in elevating the leg, the chiropractor has put pressure on the Sciatic nerve by causing the nerve to press against the bulging disc.
Sciatica chiropractor treatment
Chiropractic is effective in treating sciatica. It is non-invasive and does not require the use of drugs. Chiropractic treatment is based on the principle that problems in spinal alignment cause pain and impede the correct functioning of the nervous system. As a result of these misalignments or vertebral subluxations information does not flow smoothly through the nervous system and the body is unable to heal itself.
Chiropractors are uniquely trained to perform the spinal adjustments used to treat Sciatica. By using either a swift high speed thrust or by carefully applying gentle pressure, the chiropractor is able to free up the restricted movement of the spine and help restore misaligned vertebrae to their proper position in the spinal column. This allows bulging discs to start to return to their correct position and reduces the nerve irritability which may have been causing inflammation and muscle spasms.
Chiropractors may also use ice/cold therapies, ultrasound and a TENS machine to treat Sciatica. Cold therapies help reduce inflammation and the associated pressure on the Sciatic nerve, while ultrasound treatment and TENS machines use technology to control muscle spasms and manage pain.