Research shows that when treated with chiropractic adjustments, sciatica has an 8-9% greater rate of recovery than if patients were to use therapy or standard medical care.
People between 40 and 50 seem to be the age group most commonly affected. It usually begins as an acute pain in the lower back and then extends down the back of either leg. The pain usually worsens with prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
The sciatic nerves are the longest and largest in the body. They are made up of five nerves that leave the spinal cord from the lower spinal column, join in the pelvic area, and then travel down each leg. As this nerve travels down the thigh into the leg, it branches into many smaller nerves to reach the muscles and joints of the thigh, knees, calf, ankle, foot and toes. Branches from these same vertebral levels also supply the contents of the lower abdomen, the bladder and male and female genitalia, and the skin covering both lower extremities. The soft, pulpy disc between each spinal bone is often involved. While a disc can’t “slip,” it can bulge, herniate, or rupture. This can put direct pressure on the nearby nerves. The result? Swelling. Inflammation. Pain when coughing, sneezing or with other kinds of movement. Burning. Cramping or numbness that radiates into the thighs, legs, ankles, feet, and toes.
Like most other conditions, sciatica has a wide variety of causes. Unlike most other conditions, however, this health problem’s link to the spinal column is often very obvious. A misaligned spine, a protruded or ruptured disc, can irritate the sciatic nerve which may result in sciatica. Often, spasm of a small muscle in the gluteal area (the piriformis) due to overstretching or abnormal posture can cause sciatic pain. Additional causes may be due to chemical, physical, or the emotional stress of everyday living.
The Medical Approach
The medical approach to sciatic pain is to treat the symptoms using painkillers, muscle relaxers and various orthopedic treatments which may include traction, physical therapy and other therapeutic measures. In many cases, even strong painkilling drugs bring little or no relief. Temporary relief may be obtained from injections of painkillers directly into the nerve roots, however, recent studies have conclusively demonstrated that this practice is generally ineffective, and should be discouraged. Drug dependency may develop with some patients. Even if medicines reduce or eliminate the pain of sciatica, that does not represent a cure. When there is a mechanical problem, using a chemical solution does not make sense.
The Chiropractic Approach
Fortunately, sciatica often responds to safe, natural chiropractic care. Improving joint motion with a series of chiropractic adjustment has produced results for millions. Barger Chiropractic of Fosom also utilizes the highly successful Cox Flexion/Distraction technique, a form of decompression treatment, to reduce the nerve irritation and stress. “Before” and “after” images of the lower back often show improved disc height and spacing. Many patients report that they can resume their lives and that their symptoms disappear without drugs or surgery.