Sciatica affects a ton of people everyday. They either just got it and its affecting every aspect of their life or they have had it so long that they ignore it and have stopped doing enjoyable things that aggravate it. In both cases there is a stoppage or decrease in the activities of daily life. We all are different but we all want the same thing basically: to live our lives the way we want to live them and how dare sciatica to change that.
Sciatica is a condition when there is compression in the sciatic nerve. This compression can be placed on the individual lumbar nerves roots in the low back that make up the sciatic nerve or compression of the larger sciatic nerve they make up that starts in the buttocks region. In either case the symptoms are the same and create problems for people.
A runner, whose life has become less enjoyable because his passion is pounding the pavement, being sidelined due to pain, a truck driver or commercial real estate scout who needs to drive for hours at a time but has to stop and get out his car every thirty minutes because of pain shooting down the leg, the cyclist who loves to push her limits and ride from Houston to Austin but can’t because her leg goes numb after a while, or the woman sitting at her desk trying to finish a huge project but whose concentration gets interrupted because of shooting pain.
These are actual patient cases that have presented into the office and your situation may be totally different but the common theme is SCIATICA. For these reasons, below is the 5 best thing you can do to get relief of sciatica.
1. CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS: Chiropractic Treatment to the lumbar spine and pelvis is a proven treatment to reduce or completely relieve sciatica.
Sciatica usually occurs because of misalignment or subluxation of bones, such as the vertebrae in the lumbar spine (low back) or restricted joints in the pelvis region. Lumbar vertebral misalignments pinch the nerve and create pain and other symptoms that follow the path of that nerve. The path of the sciatic nerve starts in the low back and travels down into the buttocks, down the back of the legs and into the feet. The nerves roots branch out from the spinal cord on both sides of the lumbar spine through a hole called a foreman and that foreman gets smaller compressing the exiting nerve root and sciatica is felt.
When evaluating the spine for sciatica, one of the first thing we do is evaluate the lower vertebral levels in lumbar spine typically the L4 and L5 segments. If there are any vertebrae that are out of alignment, the next step in treatment would be to remove the subluxation, relieving pressure off the nerve, allowing the nerve to heal and function at its best capacity. When the pelvis misaligns and becomes restricted, it creates imbalance in the muscles and joints of the low back causing lumbar subluxations leading to the situation described above. The chiropractic adjustment can remove the imbalance in the pelvis and allow for the hips to move fluidly releasing pressure on the vertebra in the lumbar spine.
Disc herniation or disc bulging also can compress nerves in the lumbar spine. Chiropractic adjustments CAN help with disc herniation depending on the severity of the disc. That discretion is based on the chiropractor treating you. Treatment options for severely degenerated disc will be explained below.
2. STRETCHING AND/OR FAOM ROLLING: Stretching/Foam rolling techniques are good treatments based on the cause of the sciatica primarily being a muscular.
The piriformis muscle and deep gluteal muscles can spasm and tighten so much that it can cause compression to the sciatic nerve. In that case, doing some stretching and strengthening exercises will help reduce that sciatic nerve pressure. When the pelvis is out of its normal alignment the muscles and joints are forced to work at a different level or imbalanced causing one side to overwork the other creating spasms, muscle tightness, and in some cases muscle strain and inflammation.
A good, consistent stretching program followed by a strengthening program can help to ease the spasms and tension and build the muscles so that to perform at even strength bilaterally. A foam roller is a great tool to help smooth spastic muscles and break up adhesions to allow for better muscle lengthening and contraction. Chiropractic adjustments to help align the pelvis would be necessary if the tight muscles cause the joints to become restricted.
90% of people I’ve treated for sciatica thought it was just a muscular problem and allowed for their condition to get worse with stretching/massage only. Don’t become that statistic by trying to diagnose yourself, get a consultation from a musculoskeletal specialist such as a chiropractor to get it correct and recommended for the right treatment for your problem.
3. POSTURAL EXERCISES: Not to be mistaken for cardio or Crossfit, but targeting the muscles and ligaments that act on the spine to help with alignment and skeletal balance.
Postural exercises focus on correcting and strengthening your spinal posture. Posture is sometimes our worst enemy. A lot of people are forced to sit for more than half the day for work which increases your risk for sciatica. Making sure there is a balance of stretching and strengthening exercises that focus on stabilizing spinal posture will not only give you relief but also be vital to preventing injury or damage. Yoga sessions incorporate a lot of the exercises involved with stabilizing the spine, workouts at the gym and taking a yoga class are two totally different animals.
4. ORTHOTICS: The biomechanics of the foot can create problems in the back such as sciatica.
Orthotics may be necessary if imbalance is being created due to an anatomical short leg or abnormal foot biomechanics. There are many sciatica and low back pain sufferers whose lower extremity long bones such as the femur (thigh) and tibia (shin) bones grew unbalanced possibly during growth spurts. This will cause an anatomical short leg creating an unbalanced pelvis causing muscles and joints to respond negatively in way described above.
Same with foot issues such as flat feet where the loss of the arch on the inside of the foot has dropped and becomes level with the floor. Having flat feet can create future issues in the feet, knees, and hips due to compensation. Custom scans for orthotic shoe inserts are done at my office. They have been making a difference in many lives of low back and/or sciatica sufferers.
Over-the-counter shoe inserts and custom orthotics are night and day. Two totally different things.
5. MEDICATION/INJECTION,SURGERY: Sometimes medical intervention is necessary, but exhaust all other treatment options.
In my opinion with issues of the body, treatment options should be least aggressive to most aggressive depending on the presentation of the patient. There are times when chiropractic, exercise, meal changes, herbal remedies, etc. do not help your condition. In these cases, medical intervention is recommended. Medical doctors usually start with medications such as muscle relaxers and pain killers.
Injections are performed when usually there is a severe disc herniation. Surgery for sciatica is usually performed in the most extreme cases when something needs to be internally cut or removed. Before considering those options, I insist you follow the recommendations of a musculoskeletal specialist such as your local chiropractor.
At CORE Chiropractic, we will get a detailed history and full evaluation to find out if we can help you with relief of your sciatica. If you are suffering from sciatica and would like to see if chiropractic can help, please click here to schedule an appointment or visit COREChiropractic.net.
Dr. Bryen Brown is married to Dawn and has one son. He grew up in Bogalusa, LA and received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Grambling State University in 2008. He then attended and graduated from Texas Chiropractic College in 2012. Click Here To Read Full Bio