What Does a Chiropractor Do for Sciatica?
Sciatica: What is it?
Sciatica describes a condition in which a patient has pain along the sensory distribution of the sciatic nerve down the back of the leg. This condition refers to any sharp pain that radiates down the posterior aspect of the leg. Chiropractic care offers patients relief from sciatic pain.
Sciatica is a condition that happens when pain registers along the sciatic nerve. The term sciatica is used to define pain of L5 root compromise, S1 root compromise, and true sciatic neuropathy. We need to look into some of the causes to understand the condition better.
What Are the Causes?
This is a painful and limiting condition, which occurs when the largest nerve in your body is inflamed. The sciatic is a long nerve roughly the thickness of your little finger. Its roots are situated in the lower back, running down the entire length of the leg to the toes.
The sciatic nerve is located in a rather susceptible place in the body. The nerve’s size along with its location makes it vulnerable to irritation. There are two hot spots on the nerve that cause most of the irritation.
Other associated causes that you should be aware of are:
- Muscle spasms in the buttocks or the back
- Degenerative disc disease
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
Additional risk factors include but are not limited to sleeping on a poor mattress, wearing high heels, excess weight without exercise, injury, and more. Regardless of all the causes, sciatica is manageable through chiropractic care.
Does Chiropractic Help Sciatica?
Yes! Chiropractic adjustments and other related treatments have proven to be very effective for sciatica. This pain condition can be caused by misalignments along the spinal column in the pelvis or the lower back, usually referred to as vertebral subluxations.
These vertebral subluxations develop pressure, which is exerted on your nerves. All of these interfere with the functionality of the sciatic nerve. Therefore, if the subluxations are left untreated, then the affected region may undergo degeneration.
In times past, patients suffering from this condition had very few treatment options. However, there are additional options found today, one of which is chiropractic care.
Chiropractic treatment offers specific and scientific treatment options for low back pain, including sciatica. Seeing a chiropractor for sciatica offers a number of treatment options including spinal manipulation, deep Myofascial massage, and spinal decompression.
Chiropractic Treatments for Sciatica
Your chiropractor will treat you based on the cause of your sciatica. Normally, a treatment plan might consist of one or more options. The following are the most popular options your doctor of chiropractic might use.
- Ice Therapy
Ice therapy may be used on an inflamed nerve to help reduce the inflammation, helping to heal the condition. An ice bag is placed on the painful nerve at various intervals to help alleviate pain. This method would be combined with other forms of treatment.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
The Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a treatment procedure that uses electrodes to block nerve impulses. The procedure stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which is the body’s natural hormone for relieving pain.
This method produces adaptable intensities of electrical impulses, which help to control acute pain as well as get rid of muscle spasms. Your chiropractor would most likely use a larger version of the TENS units to aid in healing.
- Spinal Manipulation
The most commonly used form of chiropractic adjustment for sciatica is spinal manipulation. This method is very effective for overcoming restrictive barriers that cause nerve pain. It helps to correct vertebral subluxations and restore movement.
Sciatica nerve pain is usually caused by nerve irritation. Therefore, manipulation helps to alleviate irritation, which helps to reduce the inflammation, pain, and muscle spasm. This is one of the least invasive medical options for sciatic pain and is highly recommended. Visiting a chiropractor for sciatica will usually mean treatments will include spinal manipulation.
- Myofascial Release
This is a mild and gentle method of stretching that does a great job of stretching and treating the related muscles. This therapy helps alleviate nerve pain in terms of the fascia of a patient's muscles. Fascial muscle restrictions, caused by herniated discs can cause pain in the leg.
As far as Myofascial release is concerned, the goal is to relieve the tight restrictions. This allows your body to regain its healthy range of motion. Your doctor will work with your body to successfully release restrictions.
- Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is another treatment option, which many doctors of chiropractic will use to manage sciatica nerve pain. Massage stimulates the release of endorphins. Therefore, it is considered to be medicinally beneficial to patients with nerve pain.
Deep tissue massage is known to be very effective at increasing the range of motion in the joints, making it ideal for correcting subluxations responsible for nerve pain in the leg. And there is no better physician to deliver this therapy than a chiropractor for sciatica.
How Do Chiropractors Treat Sciatica?
A chiropractor can determine how to treat the problem with three observations of the patient’s joints. This way, he or she is able to help you recover efficiently. A doctor of chiropractic works on improving the alignment of the bones in order to promote nerve integrity.
Chiropractors work to improve function in the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. They trigger nerves to communicate with the related muscles and bones for proper alignment. It is all about finding the origin of pain and if there is a misalignment or a subluxation. They find out where the pressure is on the nerve. Finding all the affected areas helps to avoid wear, tear, and degeneration of nerves.
According to most findings, patients who are not treated for sciatica are known to experience the same problems years later. Your chiropractor may suggest a series of treatments to direct long-term health. It will be important to remember that they are not only treating the symptoms, but also the condition.
Your chiropractor may review images with you regarding your specific condition. This helps the physician see improvement as therapy progresses. Once healing has begun, your chiropractor can help you decide what treatment options will best fit your long-term health needs. In the three-dimension system, a chiropractor may examine the chest area to see how it aligns with the chin.
Then the doctor will trace the orientation all the way from the chin level to the belly button, drawing an imaginary line. If a patient has a problem, his or her belly button will not be in line with the chin, resulting in misalignment. If a misalignment is not corrected by a chiropractor, the condition may continue to cause various types of pain. The doctor will also check for a rotation, which is also a misalignment.
Another thing that the doctor will check for is posture to determine if the patient has a forward-leaning head posture. In case of a forward-leaning head posture, the physician may want to check if there is any compensation that may be causing low back pain. Posture that leads to a forward-leaning head may also have a pelvis that is shifted forward, resulting in bending, forcing the body’s weight on the joints. This may lead to spondylolisthesis, which is one of the causes of sciatica.
After the three-dimensional analysis, your chiropractor may compare the length of each leg. Then he or she will check the ankles, the knees, and the hips. This examination helps the doctor establish whether or not you have a pronation.
Once the physician confirms that the feet, ankles, and the knees are poorly aligned, he or she works to correct the condition. In the case of a forward-leaning head, the chiropractor will start by adjusting the cervical spine to correct the kyphosis. The adjustments are focused on the neck and not just removing rotations out of the neck.
Then the doctor of chiropractic will stretch the sacrum (which is the last bone of the pelvis) to help improve alignment. This is a crucial step for fixing spondylolisthesis. Once this is done, the doctor will work to correct any misalignments.
A sciatica patient may have developed nerve-muscle memory. This is why a physician would place emphasis on correcting individual misalignments. Advanced chiropractors do a three-dimensional recovery program, which includes chiropractic adjustment, physical rehabilitation, and spinal decompression all of which are offered in our chiropractic clinic in Juneau.
Should I Go to a Chiropractor for Sciatica?
Chiropractic works by treating or correcting underlying causes in the body naturally. This field of spinal manipulative care can help you in many different ways. Chiropractic offers a holistic method for keeping you healthy. As mentioned earlier, a notorious cause of nerve pain in the leg is low back pain.
Going to a chiropractor for assistance is an ingenious move because this particular type of doctor is very well-trained at handling the lower back. You can see the correlation between the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine.
The body is meant to work as a unit. This becomes difficult when pain is present in one or more parts of the body. At Better Health Chiropractic, we welcome patients to join us for a multidisciplinary approach to sciatic pain. Patients are not shy to tell about their experiences.
How Many Treatments for Sciatica with a Chiropractor
Sciatic pain relief may be achieved after a series of adjustments or treatments, often beginning with the first treatment. This is usually the chosen method if the condition has been presenting itself for some time. However, this offers patients an effective method for pursuing compared to the alternatives (drugs or surgery).
Different doctors of chiropractic may utilize different approaches for treating your condition. This simply means that your treatment plan might differ considerably from one doctor to another. One may add ice bags as one of the solutions while another may only stick with manipulation.
As far as adjustments are concerned, you should expect to discuss a series of treatments based on the severity of your condition. The first one may include adjustment of your feet, ankles, and knees.
The second one may be the adjustment of your cervical spine to correct forward head placement. The third one may be the adjustment of your lower back and pelvis to correct any misalignments. Exact treatments will depend on what you and your chiropractor decide is most fitting for your condition, needs, and schedule.
Chiropractic treatment is a well-known form of conservative care for spinal misalignments or subluxations. Many sciatica patients have benefited from the services of these amazing doctors. Not to mention the healthy life they are living because of chiropractic care.
Choosing your chiropractor does not have to feel overwhelming or frustrating. You should feel comfortable and welcomed to express your concerns and personal interests.
It is not about treating the nerve pain but dealing with the source of the problem in order to avoid recurrence. Therefore, choose a chiropractor who conducts a full physical exam followed by a series of manipulative procedures.
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About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.