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A: Sciatica (sih-a-tik-a) is the sensation of pain or numbness that can travel from the low back down the course of either leg. The sensation can be felt at any point along the legs or feet and the pain does not have to travel all the way down in order to be considered "sciatica". The term "sciatica" actually refers to the irritation of the large nerve (the sciatic nerve) that travels from the spine and pelvis and into the legs.
A: There are many different reasons why a person can develop sciatica. One common reason is lumbar disc bulges or herniations. This is when the inside of the "shock absorbers" of the spine (the discs) squeezes out and presses on or irritates the nearby nerves. When this happens, this can lead to severe back pain and leg pain known as sciatica.
Another common reason for sciatica is sacroiliac sprain / strain. The sacroiliac joints are two joints on either side of your pelvis and are commonly referred to as the "hip joint" although this is not an accurate term as the actual hip joints are lower and more lateral. The sacroiliac joints are held together by tough ligaments. Sometimes, these ligaments can be partially torn or overstretched which can create severe pain and inflammation. This increased inflammation can cause the nerves nearby to be become "overly excited" and irritated. This can lead to pain and numbness or weakness that travels down the course of the legs from the affected sacroiliac joints.
Often, when the discs or the ligaments of the spine and pelvis become injured, the joints of the spine can become "locked up" and stuck in an abnormal position (aka "fixated"). This process is known as vertebral subluxation. Only a chiropractic physician is adequately trained to detect the presence of subluxations. Locked up joints lead to pain, nerve irritation, and potentially muscle spasms. Sciatica can be caused by vertebral subluxation.
There are several other causes of sciatica as well. Fractures, dislocations, and neoplastic processes can lead to occlusive pressure on the sciatic nerve as well. It is for these reasons that it is best to have your condition evaluated by a chiropractic physician so that the correct cause of your problem can be determined. Unfortunately, it is not possible to self-diagnose the correct of sciatica as special tests or x-rays may be required.
A: Approximately 80% of all cases of uncomplicated sciatica can be treated successfully without the use of surgery. Treatments that are most effective for this condition are chiropractic manipulation (adjustments), physiotherapy, progressive exercise and rehab., and acupuncture. Other treatments that can be successful include spinal decompression or "traction therapy". However, many cases can be treated more quickly and for less money with manual chiropractic adjustments or manipulation. Dr. Johnson typically can make a profound difference with the sciatic pain within the first two weeks of care. If no changes are made after 2-3 weeks of proactive care, then an MRI will need to be ordered and then a possible change in treatment will be discussed...only 20% of all properly managed cases fall into this category. Even patients that have had spinal surgery before can safely be treated with chiropractic or acupuncture.
Q: How Can Chiropractic Treatment Help Sciatica?
A: No matter the reason for your sciatic pain, the root cause of the problem is likely due to spinal joints that have lost their normal position and motion. Doctors of Chiropractic are the one profession that receives the most training in evaluating spinal joint motion problems. Once detected, spinal joints that are not moving properly are treated with a safe and precise procedure called a chiropractic adjustment. Adjustments restore the normal motion that the joints were supposed to have in the first place. Additionally, adjustments reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve as well as within the discs themselves. More often than not, patients find that their sciatica disappears or is very minimal after their chiropractic adjustment.
Q: Do Chiropractors Only Perform Adjustments?
A: No. Chiropractors are first-contact doctors and are not identified by only one service or procedure. Typically, other types of treatment will be performed in order to increase the effectiveness of your care. Therapies such as electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), ice, heat, or percussive massage can be used concurrently with your problem. These services will aid in the proper healing of your problem.
Q: How Can Acupuncture Help Sciatica?
A: Acupuncture is a type of therapy that is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (aka "TCM") or Eastern Medicine. The way of looking at the body in TCM is very different from what people are used to hearing about from Western Medicine. TCM looks at the whole person or is "holistic" in its approach to patient diagnosis and treatment. According to TCM, the body has energy that circulates through it called Qi (chee). If this energy becomes blocked or interrupted in any way, symptoms of ill health can begin. In order to restore the normal flow of Qi or energy in the body, either herbs, acupuncture, or manipulation can be used.
Acupuncture needles can be inserted into specific points on the body (called Acupuncture Points) in order to stimulate the normal flow of the body's blood, nerve supply, and energy (Qi). Some of the typical TCM Diagnoses for sciatica include "Qi stagnation", "blood stagnation", or "Kidney Qi Deficiency".
Once the needles are placed into specific points on the body, they are left in for about 15-25 minutes depending on the patient's condition. Sometimes, a gentle electrical current is added to the needles which further stimulates the points and pushes the body's energy a little more. Often, a lessening of the sciatica is noted within the same day or within 48 hours.
Q: How Can I Get More Information About Sciatica?
A: You may call our office for a free consultation, or to schedule your initial visit with Dr. Johnson. Call: 573-447-0841