Sciatica is a symptom of an underlying medical condition that occurs as a result of compression of the sciatic nerve in the lower spine. It is characterized by extreme pain initiated at the lower back that travels down to the thigh and further to the foot and toes. Sciatica is not only depicted by pain but can also be felt as a tingling or burning sensation. In advanced cases, patients may experience general numbness or weakness of the leg muscles. The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots that are located at the bottom of the spine. The nerve roots combine together to form the largest nerve in the human body.
It controls various body functions such as walking or moving your legs and feeling sensations of touch or a change in temperature. Compression of the sciatic nerve interferes with some of these functions by causing intense pain from your lower back down to your thighs and legs. A chiropractor can help relieve your symptoms once they have discovered the underlying cause of your condition. In this article, we will be discussing an in-depth view of sciatica and the way a chiropractor can treat it.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica is characterized by a shooting pain or constant burning sensation that starts at the lower back and radiates down the back of the thigh and leg. The pain is usually accompanied by numbness or weakness of the affected leg. This condition usually affects one leg and it is only on rare occasions that both legs may be affected. Individuals with sciatica may feel uncomfortable standing or sitting down for extended period. The symptoms may worsen when lying down, twisting or bending the spine forward. However, certain symptoms may indicate a serious health condition that requires immediate medical attention. It is important to visit your doctor as soon as you start experiencing the symptoms since early treatment guarantees quick recovery.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sciatica
A physician will diagnose your sciatica by conducting a physical exam and checking your medical history. Health care professionals use certain examination maneuvers and typical symptoms to diagnose sciatica. Acute sciatica treatments include over-the-counter painkillers, stretching exercises, and hot or cold compression packs that help alleviate your pain. Chiropractors or physical therapists use a combination of medical treatment and self-care measures to help manage your condition.
How is Sciatica Treated by a Chiropractor?
Since sciatica can be caused by many disorders, the first step for a chiropractor is to determine the primary cause of the problem. A correct diagnosis is formed by reviewing the medical history of the patient before conducting a neurological and physical examination. The type of chiropractic therapy used will depend on the cause of your sciatica. A chiropractor uses non-surgical or non-invasive techniques to treat sciatica. This treatment option is based on the scientific principle that a restricted spinal movement may cause pain and lead to reduced performance and function. The treatment plan used by chiropractors to treat sciatica includes ice therapies, ultrasound, spinal manipulation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
- Spinal Manipulation
Spinal adjustments are the core of chiropractic care since manipulation helps restore the misaligned vertebral bodies by freeing up the restricted movement of the spine. This treatment plan minimizes nerve irritability that is responsible for pain, muscle spasm, inflammation or other symptoms related to sciatica. Spinal manipulation is not painful if done by a professional chiropractor since it is proven effective and safe.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Unit (TENS)
The TENS unit is a small, portable, muscle stimulating machine used by chiropractors to reduce muscle spasms. Acute or sharp pains can be controlled by variable intensities of electrical current generated by this special machine. Physical therapists, chiropractors and other health professionals use larger versions of the home-use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation units.
- Ultrasound and Ice Therapy
The sound waves in an ultrasound produce gentle heat that penetrates deep into the soft tissues in your body. Apart from increasing circulation, an ultrasound helps minimize sciatic pain, muscle spasms, swelling, cramping, and stiffness. Ice therapy is also used to control sciatic pain and reduce inflammation.
Patients with sciatica need a treatment plan that is personalized based on the symptoms of an individual, their diagnosis and the way they respond to various treatments. The process of finding relief from the symptoms of sciatica may require some trial and error since some patients may find certain treatments to be more effective than others. However, a chiropractor can always adjust the intensity and duration of treatment based on the cause of your sciatica.