How can chiropractors help with sciatica?

I often get asked whether chiropractors can help with sciatica. When you think of which problems chiropractor’s help, you probably think of back pain. While this is the most common thing we treat, we also treat other conditions such as sciatica. Sciatica can be a fairly mystifying condition and there is a lot of misinformation out there that can potentially be misguiding. The aim of this blog post is to answer some common questions that people with sciatica have, and reassure you that if you have sciatica, there is a lot that can be done to help you!

What is sciatica?

Firstly, what do we mean by sciatica? Well, sciatica simply means irritation of the sciatic nerve. This often causes symptoms such as low back or buttock pain that radiates down the back of the legs, sometimes all the way to the foot but often just to the hamstring or calf areas. The pain can often be accompanied by pins and needles down the leg, or sometimes even numbness and weakness.

Normally sciatica improves within a 4-6 week timeframe, however it can sometimes be a lot longer than this.

Cartoon of a man with low back and sciatica pain

What causes sciatica?

Sciatica produces pain and other symptoms due to something pressing or rubbing on the sciatic nerve. This pressing or rubbing can be related to a specific injury, but sciatica can also develop over a longer time frame without a pre-existing injury. This can often be very confusing and worrying but shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Things that can cause sciatica include:

  • Injuries to the discs between the vertebra in our spine
  • Spinal stenosis – an age related process whereby the part of the spine where nerves pass through becomes narrowed
  • A build up of muscular tension in the buttock which then irritates the sciatic nerve
  • Other back injuries

Whatever the cause of your sciatica, there is a lot that can be done to help reduce the irritation on the nerve and reduce your pain levels and other symptoms.

Is sciatica helped by chiropractic care?

Yes! Chiropractor’s can help sciatica! An important step in working out how to help patients with sciatica is trying to understand what the underlying cause of the sciatica might be. This allows us to target the treatment at the true cause, allowing long term improvement and injury prevention to occur, rather than just masking the symptoms. Therefore, the exact treatment you might experience for your sciatica will differ to someone else’s. Seeing as chiropractors are expertly trained to assess and treat problems related to the musculoskeletal system, we can help with all of the causes of sciatica mentioned above.

Chiropractic care doesn’t describe one specific treatment but includes the whole package of care. At Pro Chiro, we often treat our sciatica patients with a combination of joint manipulation, soft tissue release and massage, as well as corrective exercises. This combination not only helps to reduce pain in the short term but also helps to get rid of the problem for good.

Exercises for Sciatica

The following video shows our Sports Chiropractor Josh demonstrating some exercises that can help improve pain due to sciatica or sciatic nerve irritation.

What can I do for Sciatica?

As well as performing the above exercises, it is important for your recovery that you also try to carry on with your normal activities as much as possible. Try not to sit or lie down for long periods – even if moving hurts, it’s not harmful and can help get you better faster. Other things that may help include general exercise and gentle back stretches, as well as asking your pharmacist about painkillers that may help – even if they just temporarily mask the pain, they will help you move more which will help your overall recovery.

Can it be a serious problem?

Sciatica can be very painful but is normally nothing to worry about. However, there are several symptoms that could indicate the problem is something much more serious. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should phone 999 or go to A and E:

  • Sciatica on both sides
  • Weakness or numbness in both legs that is severe and getting worse
  • Numbness under or around your genitals or anus
  • Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine, or lack of control when you pee
  • Not noticing when you need to poo or not being able to control when you poo

These could be symptoms of a serious back problem that needs to be treated in hospital as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage occurring. This would be very rare, but it is worth being safe than sorry when it comes to your health!

Conclusion

In summary, sciatica and sciatic nerve irritation is a very common condition that affects many different demographics of people. While it can be very uncomfortable, sciatica can be helped by chiropractic care. The timeline for recovery may be longer than for muscular or joint issues. There are some exercises that can help to reduce the pain from sciatica.

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