The Chiropractic approach & Treatment of Sciatica

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What is sciatica

Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks, and down both legs ending at the feet.

Symptoms  include pain, numbness, a tingling sensation radiating from the lower back and travelling down one of the legs to the foot and toes, and weakness in the calf muscles or the muscles that move the foot and ankle. Pain can range from mild to very painful.


How do chiropractors treat sciatica

Chiropractors help sciatica through a number of different approaches. First we will perform a number of tests to diagnose the likely cause of the nerve pain, as this will help us direct the treatment in the safest and most proficient way. 

Our approach aims to reduce the sciatic nerve irritation and restore the proper functional movement in the lower back and pelvis. Disc injuries are a significant trauma and can take some time to heal. We will also advise you on lifestyle factors and exercises, like walking, and also your posture, to help in your healing recovery and to avoid worsening the sciatica.



What causes it

Sciatica can result from a number of different causes, the most well known being the disc hernia or disc prolapse. This is where the disc, usually at the base of the spine between L4-L5 or L5-S1, becomes overloaded, causing it to weaken and bulge. If the disc bulge worsens it can prolapse, resulting in a disc protrusion or herniation.

This commonly results in lower back pain and nerve pain down the leg, referred to as sciatica. There are some other causes of sciatica which we have detailed here

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What are the symptoms of sciatica

Lower back pain typically in the buttock

Sharp shooting pain down the back or side of the leg, sometimes to the calf, foot or toes

Numbness, pins and needles or a tingling sensation in the foot or leg

Weakness in the leg particularly when walking

Most causes of sciatica do not require or benefit from having an MRI or x-ray taken. This is because sciatica can be diagnosed on the basis of physical tests and symptoms. Having an MRI in most cases will not change the plan of management regarding treatment. In exceptional cases we may refer you for further investigation such as MRI if there are some red flags. These may include (but not limited to):
  • Changes in bowel/bladder function
  • Unremitting severe pain
  • Significant loss of muscle strength in the legs
  • Sciatic nerve pain down both legs