Understanding the Causes of Sciatica & How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Sciatica is a word used to describe nerve pain in the leg caused by compression and/or inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It starts in your lower back and splits to run through your hips, butt, legs, and feet on both sides.

There is one misconception of sciatica that it is a disorder but actually, it is a symptom of a disorder. Compression on the sciatic nerve causes sciatica.

Common Causes of Sciatica: What You Need to Know

Spinal disorders known to cause sciatic nerve pain include lumbar spine subluxations, herniated or bulging disks (slipped disks), lumbar spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, pregnancy, and muscle spasm in your back or buttocks.

Other non-spinal disorders that include diabetes, constipation, sitting on your back-pocket wallet, wearing high heels, sleeping on a mattress that is too soft, being overweight and not exercising regularly can also cause sciatica. Bone spurs and tumors on the spine can also cause sciatic pain.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Some symptoms of sciatica are low back pain; pain in your buttocks or leg that gets worse when you sit; hip pain; burning or tingling down your leg; weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving your leg or foot; a constant pain in one side of your butt; and shooting pain down your leg that makes it hard to stand up. Sciatica usually affects one side of the body.

Sciatic nerve compression, or a pinched nerve, can result in numbness or loss of feeling, paralysis of a limb or group of muscles, and sleeplessness.

Treatment Options for Sciatica: How Chiropractic Care Can Help

Sciatica is not really serious as much as it is very painful. However, sciatica pain normally clears up in a few weeks with appropriate treatment. A medical doctor recommends surgery in cases of severe sciatica with leg weakness along with bowel or bladder changes. They also use anti-inflammatory or pain medication.

Chiropractic care is a drug-free, non-invasive, holistic approach to treating sciatica. Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.s) treat sciatica on a regular basis. Chiropractic treatment helps the body to potentially heal itself. This is based on a scientific principle that reduced spinal movement leads to pain and reduced function and performance.

In 2015 there was a research study looking at chiropractic treatment for sciatica pain. The “researchers concluded that patients who had spinal manipulation showed statistically significant improvement in their recovery.”

Importance of Accurate Diagnosis in Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica

The first thing a chiropractor does is to accurately diagnose the cause of sciatica.  Finding a diagnosis involves reviewing a patient’s medical history, and a physical and neurological examination.  Testing may include an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, electromyography, EMG, and nerve conduction velocity.  Using these tests it helps the chiropractor to determine what type of treatment program a patient needs.  Some treatments may include massages; exercises; ice/cold therapies (reduce inflammation and help control the sciatic pain); ultrasound (this is gentle heat created by sound waves that penetrate deep into soft tissues like muscles, it also increases circulation, which helps diminish muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, stiffness, and sciatic pain); TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) (a battery-powered, portable muscle stimulating machine); and spinal adjustments.  Each patient has their own unique treatment plan.

If sciatica is caused by disorders that are beyond the scope of chiropractic practice, then the doctor determines what other type of doctor can help the patient and he will refer the patient to that specialist.  Sometimes, the chiropractor will keep treating the patient and co-manage the patient’s care with the other specialist.