The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down to the feet. It is the longest and largest nerve in the human body, so when it gets irritated or trapped, it is felt throughout the lower body. Sciatica usually goes away within 4-6 weeks but, if it doesn't, it can be quite difficult to treat, with decompression surgery, the sealing off of nerves, or painkilling injections sometimes required. Chiropractic care can help prevent sciatica from getting to the stage that these invasive treatments are needed.
Symptoms of sciatica
The pain is usually felt in the buttocks, the back of the leg, and the foot/toes, on one side of the body. The pain can be a stabbing, burning, or shooting pain. And there can also be tingling, numbness, and weakness in the affected area. The pain usually gets worse when moving, coughing, or sneezing.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica itself isn't a diagnosis. It is a description of the symptoms. There are a variety of conditions and injuries that can cause sciatic pain, including:
* a slipped disc - when the cushioning between the bones of the spine slips out
* spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the part of the spine that the nerves run through
* a back injury
* piriformis syndrome - a tightening of the muscle in the buttocks that the sciatic nerve runs behind
* spondylolisthesis - one of the bones in the spine slipping out of position
All of the above conditions can result in the sciatic nerve becoming trapped or irritated, and it is this that causes the pain throughout the lower limb.
How chiropractic care can help with sciatic pain
Chiropractors are, of course, experts in the spine, the spine's relation to the surrounding nervous system, as well as the muscular system. As such, they are in the perfect position to know how to treat sciatic pain. As you can see, most of the conditions that cause sciatica are related to the spine, and chiropractors have the skills and knowledge to be able to treat them.
With that being said, chiropractic care for sciatica won't just focus on the spine itself. There is almost always involvement from the muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve, which can become inflamed and painful.
1) Spinal manipulations and adjustments
These can help to bring the spine back into proper alignment, reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
This can help to relax tensed muscles, improve circulation to the affected area, reduce stiffness, and improve mobility.
3) Stretching and exercise
Staying still can worsen sciatic pain and prolong recovery time. Even though it often hurts to move, chiropractors can advise on the best stretches and exercises to help with recovery.
4) Heat and cold therapy
Heat will improve blood flow and circulation to the affected area and cold will help to reduce swelling and inflammation.
5) Lifestyle advice
Lifestyle factors can increase the risk of getting sciatica. Chiropractors can advise about posture, sleep positions (including the use of a pillow to prop up the knees), and nutrition.
Chiropractic care can help to treat sciatica by realigning the spine, reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve, as well as treating any related problems with the surrounding muscle. This can reduce pain and increase the likelihood of recovering without the need for invasive treatments.