After years of treating people, by far the most common question we get is “What is Sciatica?” or “Can you help my Sciatica?”
Sciatica is defined as pain that radiates down the leg, it can go from the back of the thigh and may extend below the knee and into the foot and toes. It is often debilitating and may result in the inability to complete daily tasks. Unfortunately, there are many causes of sciatica, thankfully, most of which can be looked after conservatively.
Sciatica is also one of the most common reasons why people seek help from chiropractors, the good news is that data suggests that most patients have a favourable outcome, while 20-30% will have persistent pain for 2-3 years.
When dealing with acute sciatica, the pain often resolves within 6-8 weeks with conservative therapy such as chiropractic, physiotherapy. Active treatments have finally taken over from passive treatments (such as bed rest) as a more common approach to a final resolution.
Signs & Symptoms of Sciatica
The pain can often come on rapidly following an injury, or over a longer period of time. It can be constant or intermittent (comes and goes). Patients usually complain of numbness, sensation of pins and needles or pain that travels from the lower back to the back of the thigh which extends below the knee and into the foot and toes.
Am I at Risk of Getting Acute Sciatica?
Risk factors include age (45-64 yrs), smoking, mental stress and increased height. Other occupational factors may include driving with vibration (truck), and strenuous physical activity (when your body doesn’t have the tolerance to do so)
Sciatica does not define a specific diagnosis but is rather a term used to describe a symptom. There are many causes of Sciatica.
Common Causes of Sciatica
Disc Herniation / Protrusion – the most common cause, some data suggest up to 90%
Foraminal or Spinal Stenosis
Tumours or Cysts – less than 1%
In 90% of cases, sciatica is caused by a herniated disc with nerve-root compression, but lumbar canal or foraminal stenosis and (less often) tumours or cysts are other possible causes.
How our Chiropractors can help.
It’s very important to understand that in order to help anyone with Sciatica you need to first figure out what the cause is. This is generally done with a thorough clinical history and examination. Once this is done our Chiropractors will explain the differential diagnosis and the management plan that’s associated with it. As long as there are no red flags, we will generally begin treatment, this consists of spinal manipulation, spinal mobilisation, soft tissue therapy, dry needling and other common manual therapy techniques. We also believe exercise and education plays a major factor in the recovery and prevention of further injuries, therefore we will spend time talking about behavioural modification and functional exercise to help improve mobility, stability and then strength.