Sciatic nerve pain can be an agonizing condition for sufferers. Sciatica is actually considered a set of symptoms and not a properly diagnosed condition. As such, it is important for patients to identify the specific cause of their lower back pain before seeking treatment for their sciatica.
Depending on the condition you are suffering from, it is possible that chiropractic treatment may bring you sciatic nerve pain relief.
Should you see a chiropractor for your sciatica or not? Read on to learn more about the best treatment options for your sciatic pain.
What Is Causing My Sciatica?
Before deciding on a treatment option for your sciatic nerve pain, it is important to decipher which medical condition you are suffering from. Be sure to consult a doctor to diagnose your condition before proceeding with treatment for your pain.
Some of the most common causes of sciatic lower back pain include:
- Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease – This is a condition in which the discs of the lower back have grown weak, resulting in too much spinal motion. This spinal movement irritates the roots of the sciatic nerve.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – Sciatica may be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis. This is a result of the narrowing spinal canal pinching the sciatic nerve roots found in the lower back.
- Lumbar Disc Herniation/Bulging Disc/Slipped Disc – In this condition, the interior of a spinal disc is misaligned (herniated), placing pressure on the root of the sciatic nerve.
- Isthmic Spondylolisthesis – This medical condition, in which one vertebra slips over another, can result in a pinched sciatic nerve.
- Numerous other causes of sciatica are possible. Lumbar subluxation, spinal infections, and tumors are some of these less-common causes of sciatica.
Should I Consult a Doctor About My Sciatica?
Before seeing a chiropractor, it is important to consult your doctor about your sciatic pain. It is possible that your pain is connected to an underlying medical condition, so it is important to speak with a physician before proceeding with treatment. A full physical examination will allow you to better understand what is triggering the pain in your muscles, joints, and nerves, and may help you decide whether chiropractic treatment is the best option for you.
A doctor can also confirm that what you are experiencing is truly sciatic pain. Some conditions, such as piriformis syndrome, feel much like sciatica, but are, in fact, separate conditions. Piriformis syndrome, for instance, is caused by a tight piriformis muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve. The condition is best treated through ice and heat therapy or anti-inflammatory injections and cannot be as effectively treated by a chiropractor.
Note that if you are experiencing severe pain or numbness in your pelvis, back, or legs and are struggling to pass or contain bladder or bowel movements, it is likely that you are experiencing cauda equina syndrome (CES). Cauda equina is considered a medical crisis. If you believe you are suffering from CES, contact emergency services immediately.
What Can a Chiropractor Do for Sciatica?
Chiropractors are generally the best professionals to treat sciatic nerve pain. Chiropractic treatment generally focuses on the manual manipulation of the back, with an emphasis on realigning the spine.
Spinal realignment and manipulation of the bones, muscles, and joints in the back is often a successful technique for reducing the pain of sciatica. The treatment is generally not painful, and is generally drug-free and non-surgical.
Some chiropractors may utilize other therapy techniques in addition to manual manipulation. Heat and ice therapies are often used to reduce inflammation and pain. Some practitioners may also utilize a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit in order to stimulate muscles via electrical currents. Occasionally, ultrasound technologies may be utilized to reduce tension, spasms, and swelling in the lower back. The heat from ultrasound treatment relaxes the muscles and increases blood circulation, ultimately lessening the back problems triggering sciatic pain.
Chiropractors are some of the best-trained individuals for managing sciatica and related back pain conditions. Spinal adjustments and other chiropractic treatments are often highly effective in relieving sciatic pain.
What Other Treatment Options Are Available Beyond Seeing a Chiropractor?
Patients may find themselves weighing the pros and cons of treatment through chiropractics vs. physical therapy. Though physical therapists may perform adequate joint manipulation and can offer patients neurological care, chiropractors are generally more thoroughly trained to combat the underlying issues causing patients’ sciatica. Even so, physical therapists can often improve patients’ sciatica as well. Like chiropractors, they are often trained in massage therapy, for instance.
Though chiropractic treatment is generally the most optimal means of treating sciatic nerve pain, physical therapy is a good alternative treatment option for patients who choose not to visit a chiropractor.
Acupuncture is another useful tool for combating sciatic pain. The technique, which is a proven Chinese medical treatment, involves restoring energy flow and balance to the body. This is achieved by inserting fine needles into the skin at various points throughout the body. The process may loosen muscles, relieve tension, and ultimately reduce the nerve pain caused by sciatic conditions.
The NIH and FDA both note that acupuncture is a valid way for relieving multiple forms of lower back pain, including those resulting in sciatica. For most individuals suffering from sciatica, acupuncture is an excellent treatment option to consider.
Massage therapy is another valuable treatment option for individuals suffering from sciatica. Frequent massage can help relax muscles, improve circulation, and reduce pain in the lower back and spinal regions. Massage therapy may be performed by a trained masseuse, a physical therapist, a chiropractor, or even by a family member or spouse. When practiced properly, massage therapy can significantly reduce individuals’ sciatic pain.
Seeing an osteopath may also aid patients in lessening the severity of their sciatica. Osteopathy approaches sciatic pain in ways that are similar to chiropractic and physical therapy techniques. The difference between osteopathy and chiropractic treatment is that osteopaths generally approach treatment from a more holistic perspective, aiming to heal the entire body rather than simply addressing the symptoms experienced by the patient.
Exercise is crucial to relieving sciatic pain. Though different medical conditions require different optimal exercise regimens, it is ultimately most important for sciatica sufferers to simply stay active.
Individuals suffering from sciatica needn’t be in pain forever. By using these proven treatment techniques, most patients can dramatically lessen their pain.
Don’t hesitate to consult your local chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopath to help you treat your sciatica. Proper treatment can dramatically improve the quality of your life.