Many people refer to any lower back, hip, or leg pain, as sciatica. However, sciatic pain is different; it is a very targeted pain, which occurs due to an underlying disorder. To effectively and safely treat sciatica, you need to understand the specific cause, without exacerbating the root cause.
According to the World Health Organization , chiropractic care is a non-invasive procedure that uses a focused approach to relieve discomfort and numbness, which may be associated with disorders of the neuromusculoskeletal system. By using gentle manipulations and soothing therapies, chiropractors will safely help reduce your sciatic nerve pain. So, how does this happen?
In this article, we are going to explore just how effective chiropractic care can be for sciatic nerve pain, how many sessions are often recommended, and what to expect when it comes to cost.
What Is the Sciatic Nerve?
It is the widest and longest single nerve in the human body. Anatomically, five nerve roots from the lumbar spine converge to form the sciatic nerve, and it is about 2 cm wide at its's largest point.
The sciatic nerve is formed on both the right and left sides of the lumbar spine. It is a fusion of the fourth and fifth lumbar nerves, along with the first three nerves of the sacral spine, located just below the lumber. In medical terms, these are called the L4, L5, S1, S2, and S3 nerves.
The sciatic nerves start from the spinal cord nerve roots found in the lower back and extends through the buttocks and legs, through which it sends nerve signals to the lower limbs, ultimately reaching the toes.
The sciatic nerve provides strength and support to the leg, as well as, relays impulses and sensations that supply reflexes. It serves as a connector between the spinal cord and the outside of the thigh. This entails the muscles in the lower legs, feet, and hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs.
An impairment to the sciatic nerve can trigger wide-reaching symptoms in the body, causing muscle numbness or weakness, and,
in some cases, tingling in the toes, ankle, and leg.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica symptoms depend on the particular nerve root that is irritated or pinched. Each muscle exhibits different symptoms when impaired.
Damage to the L4 level: This brings pain or numbness to the lower legs and feet, which causes an inability to flex muscles upward. There is also a possible reduction in knee-jerk reflex actions.
Damage to the L5 level: This will trigger pain and numbness in the top of the foot and may extend to the web of the big toe and the second toe, as well as ,affect the ability to flex the big toe.
Damaged to the S1, S2, & S3 level: This brings about pain or numbness to the outside of the foot, it also includes difficulty to raise the heel off the ground and a reduction in an ankle-jerk reflex action.
Patients suffering from sciatica will frequently experience pain only on one side of the lower body. Pain always start in the lower back, and travels to the thigh, the back of the leg, and down the leg. It can be a tingling, burning, or a numbing sensation that makes it difficult to tolerate. This pain can travel to the toes or foot, and worsen when sitting.
Causes of Sciatica?
Sciatica is caused by an irritation to the roots of the sciatic nerve. It is worthy of note that the name sciatica is not a state; instead, it defines a set of symptoms.
When the sciatic nerve roots are irritated, you experience sciatic symptoms. Many conditions can bring about irritation, but about 90 percent of the time, it is as a result of lumbar disc herniation - a condition in which inner gel-like material of a spinal disc sticks out through a crack in the disc's surface. This then brings about compression in the sciatic nerve, triggering inflammation, compression, and associated sciatica symptoms.
When irritation of the nerves occurs as a result of an abnormal spinal disc, it is termed radiculopathy. This explains why sciatica is sometimes called lumbar radiculopathy, due to its position on the lumbar spine. Additionally, sciatica can also be called pinched or compressed nerve pain.
Other Causes of Sciatica
Spondylolisthesis: This is when slippage of one vertebra occurs, which position it out of line with the one below or above it. This narrows the opening which the sciatic nerve exits.
Degenerative Disc Disease: A condition where the spinal discs , which serve as a cushion to the vertebrae, wear down over time.
Pregnancy: severe strain on the spine.
Piriformis Syndrome: A condition where a piriformis muscle becomes tight, thereby, exerting pressure and irritating the sciatic nerve.
Swelling from Arthritis or Sprains: This is a condition where inflammation compresses the nerves, which then triggers pain and irritation.
Can Chiropractic Help Sciatic Nerve Pain
Chiropractic care is an excellent treatment to manage sciatic nerve pain. Chiropractors are experts, and through the manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, the use of electrotherapy, and spinal manipulation, the misalignments in your body will be corrected.
As any chiropractor is keenly interested in a patient's wellbeing, he or she will determine the root cause of the problem and address it.
When a patient complains of a sciatica-like pain, a chiropractor will perform a full spinal evaluation along with CT scan, X-ray, MRI, or electrodiagnostic test.
With the help of these tests, the chiropractor will confirm if the cause is a vertebral impingement on a nerve root or a herniated disc that needs to be adjusted.
If none is implicated, the chiropractor will perform a spinal alignment, also called a spinal manipulation, to relieve the pressure on the affected area.
How Effective is Chiropractic Therapy for Sciatica Nerve Pain?
Chiropractic treatment is a viable option for treating sciatica and its associated symptoms.
A 2006 study published in the Spine Journal found chiropractic treatment (spinal manipulations) helped relieve chronic pain and the other symptoms associated with sciatic nerve issues.
According to another study published in Chiropractic & Manual Therapies , in which lumbar and sacroiliac joint (SLJ) manipulation was administered to twenty patients between the ages of 20 and 50 years, there was a significant improvement in back and leg pain after 5 sessions, and one month after spinal manipulative therapy
How Often Should you have a Chiropractic Adjustment for Sciatic Nerve Pain
Patients usually inquire as to the number of sessions required to be pain free. While the number of sessions depends on each unique individual, patients will be grouped into either of the following two categories, which will determine the number of sessions:
Patients with an acute problem
Patients with a chronic problem
The chiropractor will determine the number of sessions, the technique to use, and the length, based on your sciatica condition.
What Will Chiropractic Care Cost for Sciatica Nerve Pain?
The average price per session in the country is $35-$250.The overall cost of your chiropractic treatment for sciatica nerve pain will depend on the number of sessions, and how frequently you go for an adjustment. For more information, read: How Much Does Chiropractic Therapy Cost?
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