Sciatica in the form of an ache, burn, or tingle can be debilitating, but chiropractic treatment for sciatica can alleviate the pain
Sciatica — many patients seeking chiropractic come for just this reason, as the pain in the form of an ache, burn, or tingle can be debilitating. While the pain can’t usually be taken away immediately, it can be alleviated with proper chiropractic treatment for sciatica.
According to Steve Knauf, DC, executive director of chiropractic and compliance at The Joint Chiropractic, who also was appointed by the governor to serve on the Arizona Board of Chiropractic Examiners, “Sciatic pain can strongly affect the lifestyle of the person experiencing it. It is no wonder that a person with sciatic pain wants immediate pain relief.”
Chiropractic treatment for sciatica can vary
“Unfortunately, sciatic pain is not usually a quick fix,” Knauf says. “Responses to treatment can vary considerably from person to person even with the same diagnosis for cause. Lifestyle can also affect the speed of healing. Workplace ergonomics, stress, general health, age, and smoking can all affect the success and duration of treatment. This means that chiropractors must be well equipped to have conversations with patients, setting realistic expectations for recovery times and excel at encouraging patients to maintain their treatment plans. This can be difficult as many patients expect results immediately.”
So what can chiropractors do to help patients get relief?
“Chiropractic adjustments seek to increase range of motion, prevent fibrotic adhesions, restore proper alignment and decrease pain frequency and intensity,” he says. “Increased motion in the spine also helps remove inflammation and brings nutrition to the joints to allow for healing. Additionally, restored motion and proper structural alignment may take pressure off of structures that compress the nerve.”
Ice, TENS and other treatments
Ice, Knauf says, can also help in chiropractic treatment for sciatica by promoting “vasoconstriction to decrease inflammation, pain, edema, and muscles spams that may cause nerve irritation, and TENS units can be used for pain control and increasing levels of endorphins and enkephalins.”
In addition, if a patient is in the acute phase of sciatica, chiropractors can suggest the use of anti-inflammatory herbals such as turmeric, ginger, cayenne, and boswellia. Post the acute phase, DCs may want to encourage patients to do stretching and exercises that will build the abdominal muscles and prevent adhesions in injured muscles.
“Many people do not realize there are so many causes of sciatic pain, and unfortunately one solution is not a fit for everyone. Sciatic pain is a symptom, just like coughing. It is very important to find the pain’s origin for the treatment,” says Knauf. “Establishing a correct diagnosis and determining an accurate root cause is the first step as treatment options and precautions may be different.”
Making lifestyle adjustments
While no chiropractor can guarantee that the problem and the pain won’t return, they can do their best to advise patients about adjustments and what they can do at home to both relieve their current pain and what lifestyle changes may help prevent sciatica from returning.
“The musculoskeletal system is intertwined with your nerves and all need to function properly to avoid injuries,” says Knauf. “A person’s body reacts to different stimulus and trauma many times a day. When the musculoskeletal system and nervous system are not functioning well a person’s body may not appropriately respond to daily stressors and an injury may occur. This may be immediate or develop chronically over time.
“Chiropractic adjustments seek to align the pelvis and spine to allow for more flexibility, improved structural support, better range of motion and improved nerve function. This may prevent future acute injuries and chronic injuries that come from repetitive, improper motion by properly coordinating your body to respond to environmental stress.”
Knauf says that the short-term benefits that chiropractic treatment for sciatica can give to patients will focus on decreasing pain frequency and intensity, restoring range of motion, while also promoting soft tissue healing.
“Once a patient is stable and able to rest without pain, then preventing a reoccurrence is most important. Restoring stability and strength to the area then becomes critical to support the previously injured area so as to prevent or delay future occurrences,” he says.
“While it is important for the patient to get back into their daily activities, it is also important to correct the underlying issues that caused the injury. A change in ergonomics, strengthening exercises, and avoiding contributing factors may all be a part of the future plan. Maintenance chiropractic care should also be considered as a recommendation for patients as part of their preventative measures.”