Sciatica pain can interfere with one’s daily life. It can limit the amount of exercise a person can do, and it can feel debilitating. Medical treatments may include various pain-relieving pills, but they do not address the underlying causes of sciatic pain. Chiropractic treatments can help reduce pain and inflammation and improve range-of-motion for a patient.
Causes and Medical Treatments of Sciatic Pain
“Sciatica refers to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the leg.” This can be caused by various factors, such as pregnancy, injury, or other kinds of pressure on the sciatic nerve. Sciatica itself isn’t a medical condition, but it is a symptom of other medical problems. It can be caused by “slipped disc… piriformis syndrome… pelvic injury… tumors”. The pain can range from mild to burning, and it is often a one-sided pain. Pain may worsen after standing or sitting for long periods, bending too far, at night, or from sneezing or coughing. Doctors may recommend heat, ice, and over-the-counter pain medications. If these methods do not work, injections may be prescribed. Sciatic pain can recur, and more serious complications can develop, such as a “slipped disc or spinal stenosis”.1 These treatments do not deal with the underlying source of the pain, however.
Chiropractic vs. Medical
Chiropractors and medical doctors do agree that bed rest is not recommended. Exercises to strengthen the abdomen and improve flexibility are encouraged.2,3 Sciatic pain tends to start in the low back and travel down the leg(s). It can be dull and achy or be as intense as “electric shocks”. Sciatica is a referred/radiation pain that can also be called “neuropathy” or “neuralgia”. Chiropractors feel that it is caused by “sciatic nerve compression”, from spine subluxations or misalignment of the spine. It can also be caused by herniated/bulging or slipped discs, childbirth, pregnancy, tumors, or even “non-spinal disorders”, such as “constipation, sitting on one’s wallet, or diabetes. The piriformis muscle of the lower spine can be injured or irritated by a fall or arthritis. This can lead to spasms and pinching of the sciatic nerve. Like medical doctors, chiropractors will use ice and cold therapy. Chiropractors, however, will also use other treatments, instead of pain medications. These can include ultrasound, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and spinal manipulation adjustments.4
When to See a Chiropractor
Sciatic pain is not something to ignore. It can damage nerves and cause “paresthesia and weakened bladder function”. Waiting for the pain to become “unbearable” can cause more problems; therefore, seeing a chiropractor when the pain begins is key. After the chiropractor reviews the patient’s medical history and performs an exam (perhaps with x-rays), then treatment options can be discussed. Spinal manipulation, massage, ultrasound, and ice therapy can then begin to give the patient long-term relief.5