Read This Before You Seek Treatment for Sciatica
Sciatica is the medical term for leg pain, tingling or weakness due to irritation or compression of nerves originating in the lower back.
It is not a diagnosis, but rather a description of symptoms. A healthcare professional who is familiar with the causes of sciatica should be consulted before treatment is initiated.
Chiropractors are trained to distinguish the different causes of sciatica. A combination of history, examination and occasionally imaging (an Xray or MRIscan for example) will help to distinguish where the problem originates. This will determine what treatment is appropriate.
Sciatica Should Be Treated on an Individualized Basis
Because of the many conditions that can compress nerve roots and cause sciatica, one patient’s treatment options may be very different than those of another.
A combination of treatment options is often the most effective course, and many patients will try some combination of the following treatment options:
• Physical therapy such as chiropractic treatments can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
• Anti-inflammatory medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or oral steroids may be used to help relieve inflammation.
• Alternating heat therapy and ice massage therapy can help to relieve acute pain from sciatica.
• Epidural steroid injections can reduce inflammation around the nerve root and the associated low back pain.
• To help control the low back pain and leg pain while undergoing other nonsurgical treatments, patients may take pain medications.
• Surgery may also be considered as a treatment option, usually (but not always) following a course of conservative treatments.
It Is Important To Remain Active
Some patients believe that staying in bed and avoiding physical activity is the best idea when sciatica occurs. For the initial flare up of sciatica, bed rest is usually fine for a day or two.
However, avoiding activity any longer can typically lead to a downward spiral where episodes of pain lead to inactivity, leading to more pain, and so on.
Without proper exercise, low back muscles become weak and deconditioned, leaving them less able to support the back and the spine. Keeping the hamstrings flexible by stretching is particularly important for sciatica patients, because tight hamstrings add stress to the low back, which can aggravate low back problems.
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Truth: Sciatica Leg Pain is Caused By a Problem in the Low Back
Patients often feel leg pain from sciatica, which leads them to believe that there is something wrong with their legs.
However, because the sciatic nerve extends through the low back, legs and feet, a problem causing nerve compression in the low back can cause low back pain and feelings of pain through the legs, feet and sometimes the toes.
Structural imbalances such as scoliosis, pelvic misalignments and postural stress can all lead to sciatica. Often, the symptoms come on gradually over a period of time rather than due to one event.