Back pain is one of the most common problems in the world. However, it comes in many different forms and affects people in a variety of different ways. Studies estimate that as many as 10% of patients who experience lower back pain are suffering from a condition known as sciatica.
Sciatica is a type of back pain that occurs as a result of the sciatic nerve, which runs from your hip to your feet, being irritated. Sciatica usually only affects one side of the lower body, and the symptoms it can cause can range from mild to fairly debilitating, causing interference in your day to day life.
Exactly what causes the sciatic nerve to become irritated can vary. Some of the most common triggers of sciatic nerve inflammation include:
Lumbar spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back.
Degenerative disc disease – the natural degeneration of the intervertebral discs that absorb impacts between the vertebrae.
Spondylolisthesis – a condition characterized by one vertebra slipping forward over another one.
Muscle spasms affecting the back or buttocks.
Sciatica is particularly common during pregnancy when the weight of the baby means that additional pressure is placed onto the sciatic nerve. It is also more often seen in people who are overweight and have an unhealthy lifestyle.
Sciatica can usually be identified by the following symptoms:
Tingling, like pins and needles
Stabbing, burning or shooting pains
These symptoms could affect your bottom, the backs of your legs and your feet/toes. They may also get worse when you move around, if you sneeze or if you cough hard. You may also experience some pain in the lower part of your back, usually off to the side of the sciatic nerve, but many people find that this isn’t as uncomfortable as the pain that they experience in their bottom and legs.
In some rare cases, patients may experience numbness in the upper thighs and/or loss of bladder/bowel control. If this happens, it is essential that patients seek immediate medical help.
Sciatica is a condition that is very commonly treated by chiropractors. Chiropractic care focuses on the realignment of the musculoskeletal system so that the body can fulfill its potential to heal itself. It is completely non-invasive and enables many patients to enjoy a reduction in their pain without taking any pain medications.
When you visit your chiropractor, one of the first things that they will do will be to assess your body and your symptoms to confirm a diagnosis of sciatica. Once this has been established, the treatment you will be offered may vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and the way in which your body responds to treatment.
There are various different techniques used within chiropractic care that may be used to treat sciatica. These include the following:
Adjustments. These are the most common type of chiropractic techniques and involve the manual manipulation of the spine and sometimes limbs in order to eliminate subluxations (misalignments) and free any restrictions that may be causing pain, inflammation, muscle spasms and other symptoms related to sciatica.
Ice therapy. Ice therapy works to reduce inflammation and as a result, control the pain experienced as a result of sciatica.
Massage therapy. Massage isn’t only for relaxation. Chiropractors have found that it is particularly beneficial in helping to relieve sciatic pain. It does through inducing deep muscle relaxation, which triggers the release of endorphins – our body’s natural painkillers.
Ultrasound. Some chiropractors use ultrasound to help eliminate chiropractic pain. This involves warm sound waves passing into the body which help to increase blood circulation and reduce stiffness, swelling, and pain.
Physical therapy exercises. Moving in particular ways can make sciatic pain worse. However, there are some exercises that have shown to avoid sciatic nerve aggravation and release the pressure that comes from having tight and inflamed muscles. Your chiropractor will be able to put together a number of exercises that you can do both with them and at home that will help to relieve sciatic pain.
For more information about chiropractic care for sciatica, please contact our clinic in Colorado Springs, CO.