Sciatica is a term used to describe a set of symptoms, rather than being a diagnosis itself. The symptoms can include back pain, leg pain, numbness, muscle weakness, pins and needles, and the symptoms are usually one sided.
The symptoms of sciatica arise when the sciatic nerve or its nerve root components are compressed. People often think that this is the result of a bulging or herniated disc. While this is a possible cause, there are many other conditions that can present as sciatic pain. These include misalignment of spinal vertebrae, damage to spinal joints, degenerative discs and muscle tension.
The diagnosis of what is contributing to the sciatic pain is made clinically by conducting some screening tests to check for nerve damage. These will assess muscle strength, skin sensation and reflexes. Spinal assessment will show if there are any areas of misalignment or damage in the spine which can be corrected or improved with chiropractic care. 3
Muscle trigger points may result in a distribution of pain which resembles sciatica but is not actually caused by nerve compression. This muscular pain is usually easily relieved with chiropractic methods. 4
If a patient’s sciatica symptoms doesn’t improve within the first few weeks of treatment, more advanced imaging may be helpful. CT and MRI scans can provide detailed pictures of disc structure, which can help your chiropractor choose the best techniques to suit your needs.5
Sciatica usually responds well to chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic care restores normal position and movement to spinal facet joints, and also relieves muscular tension and contraction around the lower back and pelvis. Surgery is usually not necessary, even with severely painful presentation. Studies have shown that after 2 years, patients who have had surgery had no better outcomes than those who didn’t.5
Anti-inflammatory medications have proven not to be any more effective than placebo when treating sciatica and are not recommended.6
Once the initial pain has resolved, your chiropractor can recommend specific stabilising exercises to support your lumbar spine and pelvis. This can be very useful in the prevention of sciatica in future.
Allow the team at Walkerville Chiropractic help you overcome the symptoms of sciatica. You’ll be glad you did!
1. Jamison JR (1999). Differential Diagnosis for Primary Practice. Churchill Livingstone. 397
2. Terrett AGJ (1998). Clinical Orthopaedic & Neurological Syndromes. Thoracic and Lumbar Spine.
3. DeMyer WE (1994). Technique of Neurological Examination 4 Ed. McGrawHill. 351-354
4. Travell JG, Simons DG & Simons LS (1998). Myofascial Pain & Dysfunction. The Trigger Point Manual.
5. Gregory DS, Seto CK, Wortley GC, Shugart CM (October 2008). “Acute lumbar disk pain: navigating evaluation and treatment choices”.
Am Fam Physician 78 (7): 835“42.
6. “Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for low back pain”. http://www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab000396.html.