If you are experiencing a sharp, shooting pain that starts at your lower back and goes down the back of your leg, you are probably experiencing the pain of sciatica.
The sciatic nerve is the largest one in the body and can be found in the lower part of the back, near the buttocks. It runs down the length of your leg, right down to your toes.
Sometimes you feel this pain the moment you wake up, other times, people say it starts whenever they sit or when they stand. Others find that the pain comes and goes but when it does appear, it is debilitating.
One thing is certain, anyone who has experienced this pain describes it as intense and intolerable. Since it is such a huge nerve, it’s no surprise that the pain would be excruciating.
Now that you know what it is called and where the nerve is, let’s talk about how you can find relief from the pain of sciatica.
Why Does it Hurt?
First, you will need a diagnosis that confirms that what you are feeling is sciatic pain. This type of pain can be confused with arthritis pain or even complications from spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or spondylolisthesis.
Your local chiropractor can help to determine the root cause and whether what you are experiencing is sciatic pain.
Sciatica is caused by an irritation of the nerve at the lower lumbar spine, which can be caused by excessive weight, lack of exercise, frequent walking or standing in high heeled shoes, even sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.
How to Cure Sciatic Nerve Pain
While most people start with over the counter pain medication, these are frequently insufficient, especially if the pain is constant.
However, did you know that studies, such as this one performed in 2010, found that more than 60 percent of sciatica patients benefitted from chiropractic adjustments and other forms of physical therapy just as well as if they had undergone surgery?
The “cure” for sciatic nerve pain will depend on the root cause. Our chiropractor for sciatica pain in Anchorage can diagnose if what you feel is really sciatica and, if it is, what the proper treatment should be.
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Should I see a Sciatica Chiropractor or Physiotherapist?
Since you will need to have a diagnosis made, you should see your chiropractor first. A physiotherapist cannot order X-rays or other types of diagnostic tests while your chiropractor can.
What is the Best Sciatica Treatment?
Because of the many different conditions that can cause sciatica pain, the right treatment for one person is not going to work for another person. This is another reason why you should see your chiropractor first; in addition to a proper diagnosis, they will also discover the root of the problem, which will help them in making the proper treatment plan for you.
Let’s look at the 5 best ways to soothe the pain of sciatica and how your chiropractor plays a part in the healing process.
1) Yoga and Stretching
Depending on the root cause of your sciatica pain, your chiropractor might recommend that you begin a stretching exercise program, such as yoga. He might also suggest some of the best stretching exercises for you that you can do right at home.
While moving in certain ways can make sciatic pain worse, your chiropractor can find ways to help you stretch so that you not only avoid aggravating your sciatic nerve, but to release pressure on the nerve that comes from tight or inflamed muscles.
While it might seem counterintuitive, studies show that yoga is effective and safe for those suffering from sciatica. For example, one stretch in yoga, called the reclining pigeon pose, stretches the piriformis muscle, reducing pressure on the nerve and lowering inflammation, which irritates the nerve.
Your chiropractor might also recommend core or back strengthening exercises that will also help to reduce the pressure on this painful nerve ending.
2) Chiropractic Massage Therapy
Chiropractic massage therapy is an intense and pleasing way to relieve the pain of sciatica. Under the direction of the doctor, a massage therapist will induce deep relaxation of the muscles, a release of endorphins, which act as a natural pain killer, while reducing inflammation.
While your regular spa massage is a great way to release tension and sore muscles, chiropractic massage is more aimed towards healing and soothing the sciatic nerve. A chiropractor is highly trained in the entire musculoskeletal system of the body. This knowledge allows him to direct the therapist where and how to apply pressure so that healing can begin.
3) Foods and Supplements to Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation can be a good thing when it is temporary. It alerts the immune system that it has been injured and needs repair, causing an “emergency response team”, if you will, to send out white blood cells and alert other systems to repair the damaged portion.
Chronic inflammation, however, is a dangerous situation that is the root cause of many diseases and causes ongoing pain. When the sciatic nerve is irritated, it becomes inflamed, which is an ongoing source of pain.
To quell inflammation, your chiropractor can discuss your diet and suggest natural anti-inflammatory foods that you can add to help reduce inflammation, as well as tell you which foods you are currently eating that can actually cause inflammation.
In addition to a change in diet, anti-inflammatory supplements are also helpful. After taking your complete medical history, including any medications you might be taking, your chiropractor can suggest supplements that can quickly reduce inflammation and promote healing, such as magnesium, curcumin, and green tea.
4) Ultrasound and Other Modalities
If your chiropractor has determined that you would benefit from other types of therapy, you might find that he recommends
- Ultrasound- The gentle heat that sound waves create penetrates very deep into the tissues of the body, increasing circulation (which promotes healing), reduces cramping, muscle spasms, swelling, and pain.
- Low Level Laser Therapy- Sometimes called cold laser therapy, this type of laser has been used for almost 40 years to reduce inflammation, promote healing, and reduce edema or swelling. Musculoskeletal pain reduction from the use of LLLT has been proven in numerous studies, including this one from 2015.
- Heat/Cold Therapy- Many people find that alternating heat and cold therapy relieve provide quick relief from sciatica pain.
- Spinal Decompression- As we age, the discs in the spine naturally dry out and become thinner, leading to compression of the spine and pinched nerves. As the name implies, spinal decompression uses state of the art technology to relieve compression on the nerves that cause sciatica pain and low back pain.
- TENS Device- This is short for a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device. This small tool uses a very slight electric current which relaxes muscle spasms, reduces pain, and increases endorphins. It sounds painful, but the opposite is true.
Again, what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Therefore, it is important to consult a professional who can diagnose and treat the root cause of your situation.
5) Chiropractic Care
Spinal adjustments are at the core of proper sciatica care. By manipulating the spine, it frees any restriction of movement or pinched nerves and restores the vertebrae to their proper position.
If your pain is being caused by ruptured or herniated discs, your chiropractor can perform adjustments that can help to realign the vertebrae and the discs. When discs protrude from the spinal column, they can cause nerve pain.
Most cases of sciatica respond well to the holistic, non-invasive measures that chiropractors perform, avoiding unnecessary surgery or addicting drugs.
Chiropractic care is very beneficial in relieving sciatica pain. In one study, performed in March of 2006, 102 subjects with acute ack and sciatica pain and disc protrusion were split into two groups. The group that received regular chiropractic adjustments had less intense pain episodes, less local pain, and fewer number of days with any type of pain than those who did not receive adjustments.
Many people ask how many chiropractic treatments for sciatica will they need? This is an individualized answer and will depend on each person’s unique circumstances. A person whose pain is caused by spinal stenosis will need ongoing treatment since there is no cure for their disease, while someone else who is experiencing this pain due to inflammation and tight muscles will need only a few treatments and an at home exercise program.
After a complete diagnosis and examination, your chiropractor will determine the best treatment program for your unique situation and explain the program in detail to you at that time.
Sciatica can be caused by other issues that are outside the scope of a chiropractor. If the doctor determines this to be the case, they will refer you to the proper specialist who can address your needs.
The Bottom Line
If you suffer from the pain of sciatica, don’t spend another day in pain! Get a proper diagnosis from your chiropractor and start a treatment program so you can get on with your life!
Feel free to share this article with anyone you feel might benefit from learning more about how to treat sciatica.
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.