Sciatica is pain originating in the low back or buttock that radiates on both legs caused by compressed sciatic nerves. The pain may be felt as sharp, nagging and with sensations akin to being shocked with electricity. Causes of sciatica may include lumbar spine subluxations, herniated disks, pregnancy and childbirth, tumors, diabetes or constipation, to name a few. Sciatica sufferers may risk sensory loss, monoplegia or insomnia if sciatica is left untreated.
In order to determine a diagnosis, the chiropractor needs to review the patient’s medical history, and perform physical and neurological examinations. The use of X-rays, MRI sans CT scans may be needed to gain a more precise diagnosis and determine if indeed chiropractic treatment is appropriate for the patient’s problem. The aim of chiropractic therapy is to allow the body to heal itself. This therapy does not use any drugs during treatment and is non-surgical. The hands of the chiropractor are the only tools used to treat neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) problems. Sciatica may involve many modalities. The more popular ones are ice/cold therapies, ultrasound, spinal adjustments, TENS and ultrasound
1. Ice/Cold therapy – Ice packs are applied to the area of inflammation to alleviate the sciatic pain and reduce inflammation.
2. Ultrasound – Sound waves are produced to improve blood and neural circulation. This therapy helps mitigate pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected area.
3. TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) – A small, portable, battery-powered machine connected to the body by electrodes. This machine produces weak electrical impulses that are sent out to affected muscles and nerves to relieve pain and alleviate muscle spasms.
4. Spinal adjustment – Also called chiropractic or spinal manipulation. This therapy helps realign joints and other vertebral parts. By realigning misplaced joints and vertebrae, nerves are released to function normally again, sending better signals to the body muscles, organs and tissues and thus enhancing the performance of these body parts. Spinal adjustment is proven to be safe and effective and that is why it is the most commonly used treatment in chiropractic care. This treatment is known for the popping and crackling sound made by the body as it is massaged and manipulated by the chiropractor.
Chiropractors have knowledge of a wide assortment of adjustment techniques allowing them to tackle different types of subluxations and disorders. However, spinal adjustment is the treatment that separates chiropractic therapy from all other forms of medical disciplines. There are cases of sciatica that cannot be treated with chiropractic therapy. That is why a thorough physical and diagnostic examination together with a study of the patient’s medical history should be done to have a clear perspective of the problem. If the problem is beyond the power of chiropractic therapy to cure, the chiropractor usually refers the patient to a mainstream medical physician.
David Hiddlestone-Naith is a licensed acupuncturist in San Diego, CA with advanced training in modern acupuncture techniques and traditional Asian therapies.