Did you know that according to WebMD 4 out of every 10 people will experience sciatica some time in their life. Sciatica is the pain and discomfort from pinching of the sciatic nerve resulting in leg and buttock pain.
The sciatic nerve starts from the lower back and runs all the way down the back of the leg to the toes. When the nerve is pinched, pain can be felt anywhere along the nerve and does not have to be continuous from the back. That means that pain in the back of the thigh only could be sciatica. As the pressure on the nerve decreases the pain can sometimes “centralize” which is the pain moving up towards the pinch. So someone that started with pain in the back of their thigh could feel the pain in their buttock and then lower back as they improve. I have had quite a few patients look at me like I am crazy when they tell me that their leg is better but now their lower back hurts and I say “that’s great”.
As a Doctor of Chiropractic having had two disc herniations myself and suffered with moderate and severe sciatica twice I have had nearly every type of treatment for lower back and sciatic pain so I am very familiar with treatment options. I would like to go over the options that you have when you are dealing with this disabling problem.
Most people start with medical treatment which is medication first, then physical therapy if the medication does not work. If the problem persists an epidural injection is used next, which is an injection of a strong anti-inflammatory into the spinal canal. If the epidural does not work then surgery is recommended and the type of surgery recommended is really dependent upon the condition of the spine and how the nerve is being pinched.
Objectively speaking there are plenty of times when the medical approach gives people relief. Most people go that route because it is usually what their insurance covers or what they are familiar with so it “feels” safer. Many question that approach or have had a poor outcome and need to find another way to get relief.
As I mentioned earlier I have had nearly every type of treatment and that includes surgery. I also feel that when different doctors work together the patient has the best outcomes. I say this because even though I had to have a surgery you can be sure I was also getting Chiropractic adjustments the whole time to get the best results from the surgery. When I have a patient with severe pain (pain that prevents them from sleeping, and walking) I will often refer them to their primary doctor for strong medication so that they can tolerate being moved.
Sciatica results from a pinching of the sciatic nerve, so in my experience the most effective treatments are those that address the physical pressure on the nerve and not just the inflammation resulting from the pressure. For example an epidural injection gives relief but is typically short term because the pressure is still on the nerve.
Therefore in my opinion the common sense approach to sciatica is to address the physical pressure on the nerve. That can be done with physical therapy, but chiropractic is all about improving how the spine moves, with certain techniques within Chiropractic that are just for disc problems. Flexion distraction is one of the oldest disc specific techniques, with spinal decompression being a newer and even more powerful technique. I used spinal decompression for my second herniation and was able to keep working the entire time.
I have seen literally hundreds of people that are suffering because they tell me that they tried everything including Chiropractic and it didn’t work. You would not go to a pediatrician for your sciatica, so you need find out if your Chiropractor specializes in disc problems. There are over 30 different techniques in Chiropractic. So you need to see a Doctor of Chiropractic that specifically works with disc problems. For example our office has a decompression table, flexion distraction tables, infrared light, instrument assisted soft tissue massage, and kinesiotaping as just some of the treatment options for different types of disc problems.