If you’ve ever felt pain radiating from your low back through your hips and down one leg, you may have experienced sciatica. This pain you feel is caused by the sciatic nerve, which runs down the length of each leg, starting in your low back and ending in your heels. Pain starts when there is an interference with the sciatic nerve, often caused by a herniated disc. Sciatica can reduce your mobility and enjoyment of everyday activities, and oftentimes the pain gets worse with twisting, bending, sneezing or coughing. Below we will explore what you need to know about sciatica and how chiropractic care can offer relief.

Sciatica is a common condition that affects up to 40 percent of people. Most cases of mild sciatica resolve on their own. However, when sciatica doesn’t resolve on its own, it can lead to chronic pain and muscle weakness.

Chiropractic care is a popular natural treatment for sciatica. It can relieve pain without medication and is generally considered a safe treatment option.

Learn more about what the science says about chiropractic care for sciatica, plus other tips to cope with sciatic pain.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a pain that’s triggered when your sciatic nerve becomes pinched.

Your sciatic nerve travels from your lower back, past your hips, and down each leg. Sciatica pain can be found anywhere along this path and is often felt through the entire length.

Most people only experience sciatica on one side of their body. The pain can be mild or severe. The pain can be felt as an electric shock or as a deep aching pain. It can also cause your affected leg and foot to feel numb or weak.

This most common cause of sciatica a herniated disk in your spine that presses on the sciatic nerve. It can also occur when a bone spur presses on the nerve or when your spine is narrowed and puts pressure on the nerve.

Sciatica often resolves on its own. When it doesn’t, it’s a good idea to see a medical provider.

Left untreated, some cases of sciatica can lead to permanent damage to your sciatica nerve. This could cause you to lose feeling in your affected leg or even lose control of your bowel and bladder.

What are the basics of chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care centers around spinal manipulation and other manual therapies to help relieve pain and treat conditions.

Chiropractic care is considered a holistic healthcare method. This means that it focuses on care for your whole body and not just the specific area of your pain.

A chiropractor will ask you about your pain as well as your health history at your first appointment. This helps them develop a specialized treatment plan for you.

Your chiropractor may give you a requisition to have X-rays taken, so they can understand what’s causing your pain. For example, an X-ray might show that your spine is narrowed and pinching your sciatic nerve.

Treatment involves stretching and applying controlled pressure to your joints. The chiropractor might recommend specific exercises for you to do at home to help with your pain. Some may also provide nutrition and wellness education that can help relieve your symptoms.

You’ll generally need to see a chiropractor multiple times before you begin to get relief from sciatica.

Does research support the use of chiropractic for sciatica?

People sometimes seek chiropractic care for sciatica and other painful conditions. This is because chiropractic care may be a more appealing option for long-term pain management than taking medication every day.

You also may have already tried numerous traditional solutions to pain management, such as medication and physical therapy, without finding relief.

Chiropractic care is often easy to find. You don’t need a medical referral to see a chiropractor, and many of these practices can see patients very quickly. Plus, chiropractic care is increasingly covered by health insurance plans.

Recently studies have now looked into the effectiveness of chiropractic care for sciatica, but these have important limitations. Studies have only been done using small sample sizes, and even then, results varied.

A 2015 systematic review of multiple studies does seem to suggest that chiropractic care provides relief various types of back pain, including sciatica. In fact, back pain is one of the most studied and recommended uses of chiropractic care.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health has pointed to research showing that chiropractic care is generally safe for most people. For many, this information is enough to make chiropractic care a compelling option, especially when compared to long-term pain medication use.

What are other natural ways to help with sciatica?

In addition to chiropractic care there many natural ways to support your treatment plan and help ease your sciatica pain at home or on your own:

  • Take breaks during your workday. Sitting in the same position for long hours can aggravate sciatica. Try taking a break and changing sitting positions throughout your day. You may find you’re in less pain by the end of the day.
  • Build back strength. You can do low impact exercises, such as crunches, to help strengthen the muscles in your back and core. Strengthening these muscles will improve spinal support, which can reduce your sciatica symptoms. To avoid the risk of making your pain worse, take it slow and do these exercises carefully.
  • Stretch your hip and hamstring muscles. Tight muscles in your hips and hamstrings put pressure on your lower back. Stretching these muscles helps many people see significant improvement in their sciatica pain.
  • Use ice packs. Ice packs can help relieve the pain of sciatica. You can use an ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Try heat. Hot packs, heating pads, or even warm water in the shower may help reduce your pain.
  • Take up yoga. Yoga can help improve your strength, posture, and flexibility and also provide pain relief. Plus, you’ll get the great benefits of exercise and relaxation that come with yoga.
  • Get a massage, if possible. A massage can loosen tight muscles and provide significant pain relief.
  • Consider acupuncture. For some people, acupuncture can be an effective method of controlling pain.

When to seek medical treatment

Mild cases of sciatica often resolve on their own. When the pain doesn’t resolve quickly, it’s a good idea to seek out medical care. Contact a medical provider if your sciatica pain:

  • has lasted more than a week
  • gets worse every day
  • doesn’t get better with over-the-counter medications or rest
  • causes your leg to feel weak or numb
  • causes you to experience incontinence

The bottom line

A chiropractor might be able to help relieve sciatica pain. Using spinal manipulation techniques and other natural practices, chiropractors can help relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve.

It’s also important to know when to seek medical evaluation and care for your sciatica symptoms. If not treated, long-term pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause serious problems like leg numbness and incontinence.

If you are suffering from sciatica pain email us at info@evolvevancouver.ca to book an appointment with one of our experienced chiropractors.