Chiropractic Treatment, Causes and Symptoms of Sciatica
What is Sciatica?
Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) medicine or commonly called chiropractors, normally treat sciatica — a pain that initiates in the lower back and travels down to the legs. Sciatic nerve pain may be minimal or moderate or it can also be severe and occasional, as well as constant, or intermittent. Pain can also be described as sharp or dull or it can be a small pain that is similar with a pin or needle prick but it can also be as hard as an electric shock. Other patients feel burning, or tingling sensations as well as numbness on the affected area. Sometimes sciatica is also known as radiating pain or neuralgia. Many may think that sciatica is a disorder but actually, it is a symptom of a disorder.
The root cause of sciatica is nerve compression due to lumbar spine subluxations, herniated or bulging discs, and other non-spinal disorders such as constipation, diabetes, etc. One cause of sciatica is piriformis syndrome from the name piriformis muscle located at the lower part of the spine that connects to the thigh bone and helps in the hip rotation. Read below for more information about the common causes of sciatica.
Common Causes of Sciatica
- Degenerative disc disease. It may be associated with aging but degenerative disc disease in the lower back is the cause of an irritation of a nerve root that can cause sciatica.
- Lumbar herniated disc. Also called slipped disc, ruptured disc or pinched nerve, lumbar herniated disc occurs when the soft material in the innermost portion of a disc protrudes through the fibrous outer core and inflames the contiguous nerve root.
- Isthmic spondylolisthesis. Sciatica happens when a small stress fracture causes a vertebral body to slip out on another such as the L5 vertebra slipping forward over the S1 vertebra.
- Piriformis syndrome. Pain occurs when the piriformis muscle located at the lower part of the spine irritates a nerve root comprising the sciatic nerve.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis. the spinal canal gets narrowed due to the natural aging in the spine especially when the person is over 60 years old. Lumbar spinal stenosis happens when any of the following or a combination of the following occurs: overgrowth of soft tissue, enlarged facet joints, bulging disc pressuring on the nerve roots — all of them cause sciatica pain. Oftentimes, lumbar spinal stenosis occurs due to the existence of spinal arthritis that contribute to sciatica symptoms.
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The sacroiliac joint is located at the bottom of the spine and when irritated, it can cause sciatica-type pain. It may not be a real radiculopathy but the pain in the leg may feel similar to sciatica due to the nerve irritation.
Among the symptoms of sciatica are burning or tingling sensation running down the leg; pain from the lower back or buttocks going to the leg or both legs; pain that gets worse when sitting; weakness or numbness moving to the foot or leg; shooting pain when standing up; and constant pain on one of the sides of the rear.
Oftentimes, sciatica affects only one side of the lower body but oftentimes, the pain travels coming from the lower back to the back of the thigh then to one of the legs or to both legs. It may also reach the feet or toes. Sciatica pain can be moderate or mild but it can also be severe and irritating and can get worse.
How to Diagnose Sciatica
It is essential that sciatica be properly diagnosed by the sciatica chiropractor for it to be treated properly. Many disorders result in sciatica and the chiropractor’s first step is to determine the cause of the disorder. By learning about the patient’s medical history and administering physical and neurological examination, the DC can get a thorough diagnosis of a patient’s sciatica.
Diagnostic testing includes MRI, X-ray, CT scan and/or electro diagnostic tests such as nerve conduction velocity or electromyography. The examinations and diagnostic tests help determine the possible contraindications to manual adjustments as well as other chiropractic care and therapies.
Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica
It is worth remembering that chiropractic treatment is not healing sciatica but its purpose is to help optimize the body’s potential to heal itself. Because of the restricted spinal movement, the body feels pain and its function and performance as well as range of motion is reduced. Chiropractic is non-invasive, drug-free, and natural way of healing.
The DC or the sciatica chiropractor in Jacksonville, FL tries to determine the cause of the sciatica so that a sciatica treatment plan may be administered such as cold therapies, ultrasound, spinal adjustments or manipulation, TENS, etc. These treatment options have their own way of treating the sciatica symptoms. Ice/Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation so that sciatic pain can be controlled. Ultrasound is heat created by sound waves penetrating deep into the tissues to reduce muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. TENS unit or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a small box battery-powered portable machine that stimulates muscles. Adjustments and spinal manipulation help restore misaligned vertebral bodies and put them into proper position in the spinal column so that nerve irritability is reduced thereby preventing inflammation, spasm, pain and other sciatica symptoms.
Nonsurgical Treatment for Sciatica
The main purposes of nonsurgical sciatica treatments administered by a Jacksonville sciatica chiropractor are reducing the pain and the neurological signs due to the compressed nerve root. While there are many options for sciatica treatment, the following treatments are oftentimes recommended together with specific exercises:
- Heat/Ice packs to alleviate leg pain during the initial phase. People usually put ice first then later, find relief with heat pack.
- Pain medications. Some patients find comfort in over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen or ibuprofen and other oral steroids as they help reduce inflammation that causes pain.
- Epidural steroid injections. This is usually administered if there is severe pain so that it can reduce inflammation. The advantage of the injection is that it goes directly into the painful area and immediately addresses the pain. Epidural steroid injections may be temporary but it is effective in relieving acute sciatic pain and can help a patient improve with an exercise program.
Alternative Sciatica Treatment
For patients desperate in healing themselves with sciatica through treatment, they can also make use of the most common forms of alternative care for sciatica as follows:
- Acupuncture. Approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acupuncture uses hair-thin needles that patients don’t usually feel when they are inserted into the skin around the area of pain. It is famous for its effective way of relieving back pain which includes sciatica.
- Cognitive behavior therapy. Short term therapy is done by controlling and changing self-defeating behavior through therapist sessions online or face to face.
- Massage therapy. Some massage therapy techniques have proven to be beneficial for back pain as they can increase blood circulation, muscle relaxation and can help release endorphins that can help relieve body pain.
- Chiropractic/manual manipulation. Spinal adjustments and other manual manipulation techniques performed by experienced and trained health professionals or chiropractors and osteopathic physicians can help provide better spinal column alignment. It is designed to help pacify underlying conditions that cause sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatica Causes Must be Treated on an Individualized Basis
There are various conditions that can cause compression of nerve roots and as such, every patient may have a different treatment option than another. Sciatica chiropractors know that sometimes, there may be combination of options that will work but oftentimes, the most effective options are as follows:
- Physical therapy to relieve pressure, also includes chiropractic treatments;
- Alternating heat and ice therapy to relieve pain
- Anti-inflammatory meds
- Epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation
- Pain medications to control back and leg pain
- Surgery after a course of conservative treatments
One treatment may work for one but not for another even if the location of pain may be the same. If one’s sciatica is caused by herniated disc, he may not get much relief from conservative treatments and may need a lumbar surgery instead. However, another patient may find relief through conservative treatments such as chiropractic, physical therapy, or heat/ice therapy rather than a surgery.
For some patients surgery may be the best option while for others conventional therapies may prove most beneficial.
Some patients may find bed rest good for the first day or two. However, it is best to have proper exercise to prevent inactivity that can lead to more pain.
It will be best for the patient to work with a professional if he or she wants to self-treat sciatica.
For best results, find yourself an experienced sciatica chiropractor such as the staff of Meridian Integrative Wellness at Jacksonville, Florida. They have two clinics or offices. One is located at the Old Baymeadows Road and you can reach them at (904) 379-9412 and the other one is on Kingsley Avenue in Orange Park.
Dr. Nhat Nguyen is the Doctor of Chiropractic who owns the clinics and he is experienced in almost all types of Chiropractic treatment and an excellent sciatica chiropractor. Call Dr. Nguyen now for your free consultation to coordinate the best chiropractic care for your needs.