Chiropractic for Treating Sciatica

Originally posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Sciatica is one of the most searched terms for people seeking help for musculoskeletal conditions.

It’s also one of the most misunderstood conditions, even to those who suffering from it.

What is sciatica? 

Sciatica is actually a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis for what is causing the pain. What this means is that a separate issue is bringing on the symptoms that, together, are called sciatica.

Sciatica means a patient’s sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back and runs down the back of each leg, is being compressed. This usually causes pain in the lower back, on one side of the buttock and/or down the back of that leg.

The most common lower back problems that cause sciatica are:

  • lumbar spine subluxations (misaligned vertebral body or bodies)
  • herniated or bulging discs (slipped discs)
  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • tumors

Non-spinal disorders that cause sciatica include:

  • diabetes
  • constipation
  • and,for men, sitting on your wallet when it’s in your back pocket

How do I know if I have sciatica?

If you’re feeling pain that radiates from your lower (lumbar) spine to your buttock and down the back of your leg, you could have sciatica. The pain is described as dull, achy, sharp, pins and needles, or similar to electric shocks. Other symptoms associated with sciatica include burning, numbness and tingling sensations.

Usually, sciatica will affect only one side of your lower body, so if you’re feeling pain on both sides, it may be another condition.

How can my chiropractor help with my sciatica? 

The first thing your chiropractor will do is discover the underlying cause of your sciatica. Forming a diagnosis involves a review of your medical history and a physical and neurological examination. A diagnostic test may include X-ray, MRI, CT scan and/or Electrodiagnosis studies (e.g. nerve conduction velocity, electromyography).

Once a diagnosis has been made, your chiropractor will develop a treatment plan for you. The therapy provided will depend on the cause of your sciatica. A sciatica treatment plan may include several different treatments such as ice/cold therapies, ultrasound, TENS and spinal adjustments. To see what treatment will work best for you, see your chiropractor.