Sciatica is one of the most frequently misdiagnosed conditions in the general population. A true sciatic nerve injury is extremely uncommon, however, the term “sciatica” is frequently used to refer to any pain that starts in the lower back and gluteal region. Many people might think that sciatica is to blame for any type of leg pain. Unfortunately, it’s more frequently caused by a lumbosacral disc issue or other conditions, like pelvic misalignment.
Finding the best solution will require first understanding what sciatica is (and what it’s not). This blog will discuss the signs and symptoms of sciatica. We’ll explain how a chiropractor can help diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan for it. Additionally, we’ll include a few recommended stretches and exercises to help alleviate sciatica symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica pain, a type of nerve pain brought on by irritation or injury to the sciatic nerve, starts at the foot and travels up the back of the leg to the glut. If you have sciatica you will experience symptoms such as:
- Pain that ranges from mild to severe along the sciatic nerve—from the foot into lower back, the hips, buttocks, and legs
- Muscle weakness in your leg and foot
- Paresthesia which presents as unpleasant tingling (pins and needles) sensation in the leg, foot, and toes
Simply put, if your leg pain doesn’t travel along the sciatic nerve from the foot and up the back of leg , it’s not sciatica. If your pain travels into your glute, quad, or hamstring, stays centralized in that location, and presents differently than the above-listed symptoms, it is more likely to be caused by other conditions, such as irritation or compression of a nerve in the lower back, stenosis, or arthritis.
Sciatica: Diagnosis & Chiropractic Treatment
If you think you have sciatica and want to seek corrective care with chiropractic treatment, you will be required to undergo a physical exam. Your chiropractor will evaluate your medical history and assess your unique symptoms to rule out potential causes of leg pain, such as inflammation, spinal problems, abnormal spine curvature, pelvic tilt, and pelvic asymmetry.
Common Risk Factors Sciatica:
- Asymmetrical Pelvis and Short Leg: Approximately 75% people who experience foot, leg, hip, knee, and/or low back pain have an abnormal anatomical condition called pelvic asymmetry or anatomical leg length inequality. This is where the leg or the pelvis is literally smaller on one side than the other side. This means every step on a flat surface creates a repetitive stress syndrome to the lower half of the body.
- Anterior and Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Your chiropractor will examine your pelvis to determine whether it tilts anteriorly or posteriorly on x-ray. Anterior tilt will overlengthen the posterior elements of your pelvis and legs, while posterior tilt will shorten them. Either way will put abnormal stress on the sciatic nerve.
- Lumbar Lordosis: Your low back curvature contains all the nerves that supply the sciatic nerve. Too much or too little curvature for your natural body shape will alter the function of the sciatica nerve up stream and make you more susceptible to sciatic issues.
The best way to diagnose sciatic issues is to make an appointment with your chiropractor, take x-rays, and allow your doctor to run a health analysis to check for all possible causes.
Developing a Treatment Plan
Your chiropractor may recommend one of several treatment modalities to help you feel better if you have sciatica. Your doctor may adjust the area which will stimulate the nerve and push out inflammation around the nerve, reducing pain and discomfort. An adjustment can provide short-term pain relief.Exercise should be prescribed and managed as long as exercise doesn’t cause significant deterioration of the offending stimulus. The pelvis is a joint made for stability. It is essential that your treating chiropractor gives you a strengthening routine to help stabilize any faulty biomechanics of the pelvis.
Further, if your pain is caused by the sciatic nerve getting impinged by the piriformis muscle, your doctor may attempt to work with the piriformis muscle directly in an attempt to relax the muscle.
Your chiropractor might also recommend at-home care such as stretching, ice, and heat treatment to treat superficial inflammation. It’s important to remember that the more advanced your chiropractic care is, the more likely it is that treatment will reduce your pain.
Common Stretches and Exercises
The best way to alleviate some or most of your sciatica pain is any stretch and exercises in the opposite of the bad posture or misalignment. This is why it’s important that you speak with your doctor before you try these stretches and exercises at home:
Specific stretches and exercises for misalignment causing sciatic pain:
- Hyperlordosis: Knee-to-chest exercise
- Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Standing hamstring stretch
- Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Pelvic flexion tilt (cow) exercise
- Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Glute bridges
- Pelvic Posterior Rotation: (Twisting to the left or right) Figure 4 piriformis stretch on the side opposite of the rotation backwards. Right glute twisted backwards ONLY stretch the left side. The posterior side will already be overstretched into external rotation.
PostureWorks—Chiropractic BioPhysics® Treatment of Sciatica
Many people who have never experienced sciatic pain may find it difficult to comprehend how debilitating it can be for someone suffering from the condition. Acute sciatica episodes can last up to two weeks or longer, while numbness can persist for some time after the pain has subsided. Others may experience chronic sciatica, which is characterized by recurrent episodes of pain. It’s important to seek advanced chiropractic treatment of sciatica if you’re suffering from this condition.
PostureWorks renders non-surgical structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture and can diagnose and treat sciatic pain. When you work with a Chiropractic BioPhysics® provider, such as the doctors at PostureWorks, they look at your entire medical history and provide you with a biometric analysis of your spine and posture to give you a clear picture of the origin of your pain. Using this analysis, a personalized treatment plan consisting of postural exercises, neuromuscular re-education, and spinal alignment traction is created to help realign your spine and relieve pressure from your nerves to drastically improve the quality of your life.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine to health and optimal function while eliminating the source of pain and circulatory and nervous dysfunction. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive. Contact us today to schedule your appointment or learn more about chiropractic treatment of sciatica.