Millions of people suffer from back pain each year, and for many of those, sciatica is the culprit. If you’ve ever had that shooting pain down the back of your leg, or that dull achy pain that plagues you if standing or sitting for just a little too long, then you may have wondered if a chiropractor would be able to help ease your symptoms, or maybe even take them away entirely. Read on to discover exactly what sciatica is and how your chiropractor might be able to help.
What is Sciatica Anyway?
Sciatica is a pain originating in the lower back, radiating through the buttocks, and down the thigh area. Occasionally, the pain makes its way all the way down into the foot. It generally occurs on only one side of the body. The pain can range from sharp, stabbing, and tingly to a dull ache that ranges in intensity of pain. Though pain from sciatica can be constant, it is often exacerbated from sitting, or even standing, for long periods of time. Sciatica, with all of its painful symptoms, is actually itself a symptom of a larger concern.
It is caused through compression of the sciatic nerve. This can occur through spinal injuries and disorders, such as herniated or bulging disks or misaligned vertebrae. It can even be impacted by pregnancy and childbirth. Some additional causes of sciatic nerve compression include diabetes, tumors on the spine, and even, especially for men, by sitting for long periods of time on a wallet in the back pocket.
How Can A Chiropractor Help?
When you see a chiropractor for your sciatica, there are several different techniques they can employ to help relieve pain. The main goal is to relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve. One of the benefits of chiropractic care is that it offers a potential path to a pain free existence without the use of surgery or pain medication. Of course, some cases may require therapy beyond what a chiropractor can offer. Even then, chiropractic care will still often be a partner, co-treating and supplementing whatever additional treatments your medical team recommends.
What Are the Specific Treatments A Chiropractor May Use to Treat My Sciatica?
A chiropractor has many treatment options available to help improve your pain. Your treatment will depend, in large part, on the underlying cause for the the problem. The chiropractor will complete a full evaluation, sometimes using tests such as x-rays, to determine the source of your back pain before devising a plan of action. They will complete an oral history to determine your degree of pain and range of motion as well. After gathering all the necessary information, the following is a list of some of the treatments your chiropractor may recommend:
- Spinal Manipulations/Adjustments—Spinal manipulation is one of the hallmarks of chiropractic care and is probably what most people think of when the word chiropractor is mentioned. Spinal manipulation involves the maneuvering and adjusting of the spine to its proper alignment. This helps ease sciatica, by reducing inflammation and pressure on the nerves that are causing the sciatica pain. Best of all, the adjustments themselves are generally pain free.
- Cold Therapy/Ice—The use of cold therapy or ice can also help to reduce inflammation, which can ease the swelling and pressure on the sciatic nerve, thereby minimizing pain from sciatica.
- Ultrasound—This is a treatment that uses sound waves to produce a subtle heat that penetrates from the skin into the muscle tissue. This, in turn, reduces swelling, stiffness, and also pain from sciatica.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)—Chiropractors will sometimes use this box-shaped device to treat sciatica. It uses electrical current of variable intensity to stimulate muscles. It helps to control muscle spasms and also to reduce pain. Smaller versions of these appliances are available for home use, but your chiropractor will have a larger unit and the ability to combine this treatment with other options at their disposal.
- Massage—Sciatica can sometimes be caused by a painful knot of muscles known as a trigger point. These trigger points can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, thereby causing the painful symptoms. Massage is a technique that can reduce inflammation and relax the muscle fibers. A nice side benefit is that the same massage that reduces sciatica pain can also help reduce stress and promote relaxation for the rest of your body, too.
Is Chiropractic Care the Right Choice for Me?
Chiropractic care has proven to be a viable first line treatment for sciatica. Not only are the treatments effective and relatively pain free, chiropractic visits are often covered by insurance. Even when a patient does not have insurance coverage, chiropractic care is generally very affordable. Treatments do not involve surgery or expensive pain medications. Another benefit is that many people find relief from their sciatica when visiting a chiropractor in as little as four to six visits, though that will vary depending upon the cause and severity of the sciatica. Chiropractors will also instruct patients on stretching and other exercises to do from home that will help control the sciatica symptoms and perhaps even keep them at bay altogether.
How Can I Find a Chiropractor?
Most chiropractors will be able to effectively diagnose and treat your sciatica. Chances are you, or a close friend or family member, have utilized the services of a chiropractor in the past. Check with them first, and even if they are not able to help, they can probably recommend a colleague who can. You can also check with your physician for a referral or contact the American Chiropractic Association for assistance.
If you are interested in learning more about seeing a chiropractor to treat your sciatica, please contact A Family Chiropractic Clinic at (940) 566-0000 today. Our experienced staff can provide a full evaluation as well as the information you need to make the best treatment decisions. Not only do we have experience treating sciatica, but back and neck pain in general. We treat you as whole rather than just your symptoms. Our goal is to help you get your quality of life back.