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What does chiropractic for sciatica involve?
The first step to effective treatment is to establish what is causing the sciatic pain (the source). Sciatica is a term that is used to describe a symptom – a pain down the back of the leg (following the path of the sciatic nerve) – rather than a specific disease. There are many different sources of sciatica. Irritation or injury of the muscles, joints, nerves or discs can all result in sciatic symptoms. Careful examination is therefore essential to establish what structure is truly the source of the pain.
The second, and perhaps most important step to chiropractic treatment for sciatica, is to find why it has occurred. What is the underlying cause? Unless you were hit by a truck or had some other form of trauma your sciatica is the result of a progressive breakdown of tissue over time. This is most commonly due to chronic poor posture, faulty body mechanics or repetitive strain. So often we hear patients saying “all I did was bend over to pick up a sock and then my back just went!” Picking up the sock wasn’t the cause of sciatica it was simply the final straw.
Examination can reveal asymmetries, muscle weaknesses or imbalance, joint restriction, changes in posture and faulty mechanics which can all predispose to injury. Once both the source and the underlying cause of the sciatica have been identified effective treatment can take place.
Chiropractic for sciatica is tailored to the individual and their specific case. It may include a number of techniques such as manipulation, soft tissue work, dry needling or corrective exercise.
How does chiropractic treatment for sciatica work?
Restricted or irritated joints can cause referred sciatic pain. Chiropractic manipulation is an effective approach to restore proper movement to the joints and relieve pain. It can also be used to restore movement and function to joints away from the site of pain to help unload the painful area.
Spinal traction has long been used for sciatica, particularly in cases of disc herniation and stenosis. Traction helps to elongate and ‘open up’ the spine, unloading irritated nerves or joints.
Triggers points or ‘knots’ within specific muscles of the lower back and hips can also cause referred sciatic pain. For example, the gluteus medius muscle (shown opposite) when irritated, will commonly cause pain down into the outer thigh and calf. A variety of soft tissue approaches such as active release, trigger point therapy or ischaemic compression can be used to treat these muscles to relieve sciatic pain.
Dry needling is a therapeutic technique using an acupuncture needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate the underlying tissue. Dry needling is very effective at treating deep trigger points causing sciatic pain.
Exercise can be used in both the early and late stages of a sciatic compliant. For acute sciatic problems specific exercises can be used to relieve pain and promote healing. Later, exercise can be progressed to improve strength, endurance, mobility and balance to aid full recovery and prevent recurrence.
Is chiropractic for sciatica safe?
Yes. Chiropractic is widely recognised as one of the safest, drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of nerve, muscle and joint complaints. Most patients experience immediate relief following chiropractic treatment for sciatica, however, some may experience mild soreness, stiffness or aching, just as they might after exercise. Current research shows that this discomfort typically fades within 24 hours.
Are you suffering with sciatica? Click here to find out how Treatment at Dynamic Health Jersey CI could help.
This post was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more infomation about Steffen click here.