The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the human body. However, when it becomes compressed or irritated due to bulging or ruptured discs, muscles spasms, a narrowing of the spinal canal and other underlying conditions, the effect can be incredibly painful. Pain often begins in the back or buttock and shoots down to the leg or foot.
Burning, tingling, weakness and numbness are also common. While sciatica can go away on its own, many patients seek treatment right away, as the condition is painful and can cause mobility issues. While some doctors will prescribe steroids, muscle relaxants, painkillers or even surgery to relieve symptoms, others, including chiropractors, rely on more natural ways of healing. We will outline some of these alternative therapies here.
One Treatment Does Not Fit All
Before we get into the different therapies and treatments, we want to stress how important it is to understand the potential causes of your sciatica. When you schedule your first appointment with a chiropractor, he or she will likely ask some questions about your medical history and recent injuries.
A physical exam, X-ray or MRI may also be performed to shed light on your symptoms. While slipped discs and injuries are the usual suspects, an underlying illnesses or chronic condition could be to blame. Once we understand the cause of your sciatica, we can determine the proper course of action.
A 2010 study found that 60 percent of people with sciatica, who didn’t have success with other therapies, experienced the same degree of relief with spinal manipulation (also called spinal adjustments) as those who had surgery. If there was ever a case for trying chiropractic before going under the knife, this is it.
Spinal adjustments could be a non-invasive, less expensive way to experience relief from sciatic nerve pain. It realigns vertebrae that could be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve and helps improves circulation, which can speed up the healing process.
Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression
Spinal discs are gel-like cushions between the bones in your spine. When a disc bulges or slips into the spinal canal, it can pinch the sciatic nerve. Spinal decompression gently stretches the spine, which takes the pressure off the discs and encourages them to move back into place, taking pressure off the sciatic nerve and increasing the flow of blood and oxygen.
In our office, the DRX9000 True Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression System™ often facilitates this type of therapy. The DRX9000 calculates the amount and force of decompression, based on your weight, the decompression angle, and your reaction to the treatment.
One of the goals of chiropractic and massage therapy is to promote healing and wellness. And when you have sciatica, the faster you can experience both of these phenomena, the better. Like some of the other therapies mentioned here, massage improves circulation.
The faster your blood can carry oxygen and nutrients to vital parts of your body and remove toxins, the faster you’ll heal. Specialized massages for sciatica can also help loosen the muscles that are putting pressure on your sciatic nerve and relieve pain.
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best things you can do when you have sciatica is get up and get moving — inactivity will only make the pain worse. While there are many exercises for sciatica on the web, you’ll get better results with a plan tailored to your specific needs.
This type of therapy is especially beneficial to those with Piriformis Syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is a condition where a large muscle in the thigh tightens, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. When this happens, the number one goal is to get that muscle to loosen up. Often, this can be achieved through targeted movements and exercise.
As painful as sciatica is, it is often a temporary condition. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait it out. A chiropractor can help you uncover the cause of your sciatica and shorten the path to recovery.
Need help with sciatica? Schedule an appointment at one of our South Florida offices.
About The Author:
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.