Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is being compressed and pain shoots down the leg. Chiropractic adjustments, stretches and exercises can help remove the pressure on the sciatic nerve, reduce pain and in some cases, eliminate the condition.

What is sciatica and what causes it?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is essentially affected. It’s usually being compressed and when it’s compressed it will refer pain through the glutes and down the back of our leg.

There are many causes, however, the main two are damage to the low back discs, which causes a lot of compression on the nerve, which causes the pain to travel into your leg and that can be caused from trauma such as a lifting injury or what we see a lot of today is lots of repetitive stresses such as sitting over time just break that disc down.

The other main cause, and it’s commonly misdiagnosed, is something called adhesion. It’s kind of scar tissue within the muscles linking the tendons surrounding the nerve and when this adhesion sticks to the nerve, it can create lots of stress and tension on a nerve. Which again can cause that pain that travels down the back of our leg.

Can you describe some of the symptoms of sciatica and the type of pain that people experience?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Of course. The first major symptom we experience is usually pain. It usually starts in the back of our glutes and it starts to refer down the back of our leg. The pain usually starts out as a stabbing, burning pain, not particularly comfortable. As the condition worsens and the pain becomes more chronic, you start to feel some numbness and tingling and then over time you can lose strength in your extremity and even loss of motor control of the extremity.

What type of chiropractic treatments are performed to help relieve sciatica and how do they work?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Just like any other treatment, it always requires a through and detailed examination to be performed to determine the root cause of the issue. Once you have a clear diagnosis and a diagnosis determined, a typical treatment plan will consist of chiropractic adjustments which focus on moving the joint and unloading the pressure on the nerve via the disc.

Then if we’re going to do a really comprehensive treatment, it has to involve some soft tissue work to break down the adhesion in the joint. You supplement that with lots of postural reeducation to address those spinal imbalances. When you combine those three together, we have great improvement in our joint range of motion and function. It allows for better joint movement and by having better posture and stabilization in the surrounding structures, we just have better support in the joint, the disc, the tissue and the nerve, and this just allows for a pain free lifestyle and essentially unrestricted movement.

Is it possible to heal from sciatica and never experience the pain again? Or does it generally reoccur and require ongoing chiropractic treatment?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Absolutely but as every patient and case differs, it’s always going to be a case by case basis. So, cases that involve damaged discs or degenerated discs certainly have a higher instance to occur again because once that damage has occurred, it can’t be reversed. Also, the original environment that caused the issue doesn’t tend to change patient to patient. So again, if it was caused from an onset of just being strapped to your desk 50 hours a week and that doesn’t change then obviously the problem can always exasperate. However, if you do follow through with a thorough treatment plan, and then you maintain the health of the joint, there’s absolutely no reason why this problem should come back.

Now, obviously each provider will have different recommendations to maintain the process. But essentially if we can keep the joint in alignment and keep that joint moving and encourage good spinal health, there’s no reason why this problem should return.

Are there any stretches or exercises people should do at home to help reduce the pain from sciatica?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yes. Stretching and exercises are always a great way to start but usually once the condition has begun, it’s difficult to treat on your own. So again, we always preach good habits, particularly in the workplace.

However, if you are suffering sciatica, there really isn’t too much you can do on your own to get it corrected. If you’re suffering it, I would really suggest that you go seek help from a physician, particularly a chiropractor to be able to diagnose that root cause and get it corrected. And then obviously follow through on your homework and create those good work habits which everybody should be doing if we’re sitting for a living. Make sure we’re stabilizing the pelvic floor, activating all those muscles in the back of body that we call the posterior chain which really gives some support to the lower back and the pelvis. And if you do those, then obviously there’s no reason why this pain should come back.

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