Can Chiropractic Help With Sciatica?
Sciatica can be an excruciating condition to deal with and it certainly doesn’t help that there is a lot of misinformation available on the internet around this often misdiagnosed condition. So let’s chunk down the facts...
What is sciatica?
The term ‘sciatica’ simply refers to an irritated sciatic nerve, which may cause symptoms such as low back pain, buttock pain. Often accompanied by shooting pains down the back of the leg over the hamstring, calf and even down to the sole of the foot in some cases. It is also common to experience numbness, tingling and weakness on the affected side alongside morning stiffness. Recovery from this may take significantly longer than other musculoskeletal issues.
What causes sciatica?
In order to irritate the sciatic nerve we must have a nearby structure either compressing or rubbing on it. This may be secondary to a trauma or injury, but often develops by itself over a long period of time due to poor posture and prolonged slouching. No matter the cause there is often a lot that can be done to help reduce and improve pain levels and mobility.
Structures that may compress the nerve include:
1. Spinal discs
2. Osteoarthritic changes to the vertebrae (Intervertebral foramen narrowing)
3. Spinal canal narrowing (spinal stenosis)
4. Ligaments, tendons and muscles (such as the piriformis muscle)
How common is it?
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE 2016) up to 40% of the population will experience sciatica in their lifetime.
Can Chiropractic care help in all of these cases?
Absolutely! Chiropractic care can help with sciatica, a Chiropractor’s expertise is the spine and nervous system.
Carrying out a Chiropractic initial assessment will allow us to understand what the underlying cause is, once we discover this it allows us to specifically target the underlying issue getting to the root cause of the sciatica.
Is there anything I can do at home to help?
Yes, it is important that you carry on with your daily activities as much as possible, avoiding bed rest and sitting for long periods of time. Gentle exercise and back stretches may also help take the edge of sciatica. Many patients also note relief by applying cold packs to the low back pain, even if all it does is temporarily mask the pain it will help you move around more efficiently reducing further irritation and help with your recovery.
Can sciatica be serious?
As excruciating as this condition may be it is rarely anything to worry about. However there are several signs that may indicate a more serious underlying cause. Although extremely rare and uncommon, If you have any of the following signs it may be wise to go to A&E or call 999 as these symptoms may be a sign of serious nerve damage requiring immediate surgical attention:
Numbness under or around your groin/genital area.
Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine, or a lack of control.
Not noticing when you need to use the toilet or being unaware of bowel movements.
Severe weakness or numbness in both legs that is getting progressively worse.
Although extremely uncommon it is always better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to your spine and nervous system.
Sciatica is very common, while uncomfortable is rarely serious and can be helped by a trained Chiropractor. The recovery for this is often slower than other musculoskeletal problems, however there are also exercises and stretches you can do while waiting for
the pain to subside.