Back pain is the most common disorder seen by chiropractic physicians, comprising of up to 70% of presenting patients. A substantial number of those patients have sciatica… the popular definition of sciatica is “pain radiating into the back of the leg”. Costing billions of dollars to treat every year, sciatica is also a major cost of work-related disability.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), sciatica is widely suffered by North Americans with up to 40%of the population experiencing it during their lifetime. The treatment of low back pain and sciatica is one of greatest challenges for doctors, and is the most expensive condition treated in the United States in people ages 20 through 50.
The term sciatica is a generic term describing pain and discomfort resulting from inflammation of the sciatic nerve. The term represents multiple causes of compression to the sciatic nerve including muscle spasm, disc disease, spinal stenosis, and spinal arthritis, which may or may not cause back pain.
If left untreated, sciatica may lead to nerve damage in the leg, resulting in numbness and a loss of muscle strength that may be irreversible. In severe cases of spinal pathology the nerves that supply the muscles controlling the bowel and bladder may be affected, resulting in incontinence (loss of bowel or bladder control) or sexual dysfunction.
Because sciatica has multiple causes, it’s important to see a doctor who understands this problem well. Our chiropractic physicians specialize in disorders of the low back and are uniquely prepared to evaluate and treat this complicated condition. A thorough physical examination usually brings the cause of the sciatica to light, however, sometimes advanced testing by EMG or MRI is necessary to confirm the diagnosis.
Proper treatment for sciatica addresses the source of the nerve root irritation. Spinal manipulation, a treatment offered mainly by chiropractic physicians, has been proven highly effective as a treatment for this disorder. Spinal manipulation is often combined with therapeutic modalities, such as electric stimulation and ultrasound, to maximize relief. Acupuncture may be used to help the pain. Exercises are also commonly used to increase flexibility and strength, which assists in the healing process and prevents reoccurrence.