Chiropractors are a conservative, noninvasive and drugless form of medical care. In fact, it is generally accepted that this kind of care should be done before any invasive procedure is pursued such as back surgery. Chiropractic care has been well documented in being successful for conservative medical attention. Sciatic pain is right up a Chiropractor’s alley. Chiropractors are legendary in treating patients with back problems. They routinely diagnose (test) and successfully treat back and leg pain. Whether you have a pinched nerve, muscle, ligament or tendon ailments that may be causing your pain a chiropractor will take the proper time to examine your back and leg pain to determine the exact source of your sciatic pain. Essentially, chiropractors help your body heal itself.
It is important to understand that sciatica is not an actual diagnosis but rather an underlying symptom of your problem. A chiropractor will start by assessing the known five culprits (guilty parties) of the symptom sciatica. These five culprits include:
• Herniated disc problems
• Spinal stenosis (narrowing)
• Facet joint problems
• Nerve entrapment
• Presence of tumors, infection or metabolic complications
It is necessary for a chiropractor to determine if your pain is caused by a herniated or ruptured disc. This condition in medical terms is known as sciatic neuritis. Neuritis means the nervous system is involved (neuro = nerves and itis = inflammation). The diagnosis (evaluation) and treatment program will be for “disc injury”.
If you don’t have neuritis, then the chiropractor will check for spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is another common cause of sciatica that is a narrowing of the spinal column that can generate inflammation of nerves. If this is your diagnosis for your leg pain, then you will be treated specifically for that.
So far, you don’t have a herniated disc or spinal stenosis so the chiropractor will look for lumbar facet symptoms. Your facet joints come in pairs at the back of each spinal vertebrae. These facet joints link the vertebrae above to the one below to form a functioning joint that allows for movement of the spine. This is not so different from knee joints only you have many of them up and down your spine between each of your spinal bones. This allows you to slightly bend your spinal column up, down and sideways as well as twist. Think of all the movements your spinal column can do when you work a hula-hoop. It’s amazing. So facet joint syndrome is referring to pain that occurs in your facet joints. These joints are filled with synovial fluid just like your spinal discs. Your discs act as cushions between your vertebra and the fact joint allows your vertebra to move in a number of different directions. If this is your problem, the chiropractor has a therapy that works on this particular problem.
Don’t have any of the above? Now the chiropractor will look for nerve entrapment syndrome. What this is about is mechanical imbalances in the spine and hip with damaged discs (but not herniated) with facet joint movement restrictions. This can lead to muscular tightness that may lead to nerve entrapment of the sciatic nerve. The muscles involved here are the piriformis muscles. Chiropractors will perform muscles therapies on these muscles to loosen them and restore balance to your spinal joints and release pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If none of the above is diagnosed, your chiropractor will refer you to another doctor to determine if you have any tumors, infections or metabolic problems.
Therefore, the goal of a chiropractor is to diagnose (find out what you have) and treat you for that specific problem in a conservative way (noninvasively, no surgery). This involves active hands on care to return full motion to the spine by treating disc, joint and muscle problems. Spinal manipulations may include thrusting techniques, non-thrusting techniques, instrument-assisted therapies such as the Graston technique for muscle problems, trigger point therapy, stretching and resistance techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound as well as alignments. The chiropractor’s goal is to return normal back function. The chiropractor’s job doesn’t end there. Overly, the chiropractor knows that prevention of back problems is important and will instruct you on how to keep your back healthy.