Sciatica Treatment in Melbourne
Individuals who suffer sciatica will tell you of their often daily struggle, with symptoms like leg burning, tingling, weakness, lower back pain, electric shock-like pain and numbness. Even the most simplest of tasks can aggravate your pain, like coughing, sneezing, straining, walking and bending over. If not properly managed symptoms of sciatica commonly worsen over time, leading to potential permanent nerve damage, muscle weakness and atrophy (shrinkage) of the buttocks, thigh, leg, calf and toes making it important to see a healthcare professional as early as possible.
What is Sciatica?
The Sciatic nerve is made up of multiple nerves that begin in the spinal cord and exit through your spine in the lower back. From here, the nerve passes through the buttocks and into the legs. Sciatica-like pain is usually the result of a disc bulge/herniation or spinal decay (arthritis) which directly puts pressure onto the nerve causing inflammation as well as the characteristic sciatica symptoms discussed above.
10 Facts about Sciatic
- Sciatica is a term for a group of symptoms: Sciatica is not a condition, however it is a collection of signs and symptoms of an underlying health problem.
- Different causes are age dependent: Sciatica can be caused from different conditions. Arthritis can affect individuals from age of 60 onward, and disc injuries between 25-40 years of age.
- Site of pain can differ from case to case: The Sciatic nerve is made up of 5 different nerve roots making it the largest in the body. The site of pain experienced can be dependent on which nerve root is most affected.
- There can be many different types of symptoms experienced: Due to the multiple nerve levels of the sciatic nerve, one can experience many different symptoms. Sharp shooting pain, electric like pain down the leg, numb cold foot, calf pain or tightness and more.
- A condition of many names: Sciatica is known by many different names including; lumbar radiculopathy, pinched nerve and or compressed nerve.
- Invasive and Non-invasive treatment options: studies have shown that for quick short term results then surgery is an option however, non-invasive hands on therapy like Chiropractic is just as effective long term.
- Red Flags of Sciatica: if your symptoms get worse and both legs start to be affected and if you lose control and feeling of your bowels then these are signs that you may need urgent medical intervention.
- Blanket term for low back pain with leg referral: Sciatica can be misdiagnosed and misused by patients describing their current symptoms. Patients can use the term to describe leg pain, when sciatica may not be the actual problem. Many conditions can present and mimic sciatica.
- Preexisting conditions can influence prognosis: certain chronic conditions, diseases or bio-mechanical dysfunctions can determine the best form of treatment required for each individual case of sciatica.
- Quick relief is easy to find: most cases of sciatic can be treated quickly for immediate relief. In some cases, Chiropractic care can reduce the symptoms of sciatica by removing the nerve pressure and increasing the function of the spinal joints. Gentle stretching, traction, flexion distraction and hot or cold therapy can also help.
(Anatomy of sciatic nerve from the spinal cord down to the dorsum of the foot)
Who in Melbourne is most at risk of Sciatica?
- Occupation: individuals who spend long periods sitting, are required to bend/twist or lift heavy objects continuously are placed at a greater risk of lower back and disc injuries which may affect the sciatic nerve
- Age: if people haven’t regularly maintained proper spinal health by maintenance Chiropractic check-ups it can ultimately lead to spine degeneration (arthritis) and spur formation which can constrict nerves of the lower back
- Obesity: as our body weight increases (usually abdominal weight) it places more and more load on the joints of the spine, this process not only increases the likelihood of spinal degeneration but it may cause your spine to adapt and change position causing nerve irritation
(Dr. Peter Vrakatselis performing a side-lying adjustment on patient with sciatic pain)
Is Chiropractic Treatment suitable for Sciatica?
There are a variety of treatment modalities effective at managing symptoms of sciatica. Generally speaking, Chiropractors & Physiotherapists are the most sought after for these types of problems. Sciatica is usually managed with a variety of different treatment methods which can include painkillers, muscle relaxers, physical therapy, traction devices, exercises and in severe cases surgery. Chiropractic offers a drug-free option, which in certain cases may be effective in managing sciatica.
(One of our chiropractors using flexion distraction table to manage Sciatica)
- Chiropractic adjustments: Chiropractors are trained in
assessing the spine for dysfunctional areas (referred to as “subluxations” by some Chiropractors) When the spine is misaligned it can potentially cause disc pressure, nerve pressure, muscle tightness as well as other problems. If the spinal misalignment is causing the sciatica, Chiropractors may be able to provide sciatica relief by adjusting the spine and working on the associated musculature.
- Chiropractic mobilisation: in cases where an individual may be in extremely severe pain a more gentle approach is needed. Chiropractors have a range of lower force techniques like Activator method, SOT pelvic blocking and drop-piece mobilisation which can be used instead of traditional Chiropractic adjustments.
- Flexion-Distraction: Flexion-distraction describes a particular type of table which is designed for lower back cases like Sciatica. The table gentle applies traction to the spine (effectively opening up the space between the bones where the disc sits) aimed to reduce pressure on the disc bulge and therefore providing pain relief
- Soft tissue muscle release: when your body has an injury like Sciatica, its natural reaction is to protect the area. Your body does this by making certain muscles tighten so that the injury doesn’t get worse. Unfortunately this may actually cause additional pain and prevent the problem from correcting so we use a range of gentle soft tissue muscle releasing techniques to improve your movement and provide sciatic pain relief
- Home exercises: once your pain has settled down our focus shifts to making sure it never returns. Our Chiropractors provide personalised exercise advice such as core exercises and postural strengthening exercises to make sure your body is able to cope usual lifestyle demands
More up-to-date, high-quality, peer-reviewed, Scientific research into Chiropractic and its effectiveness in treating patient’s with Sciatica is required. However below is a summary of some of the available “limited” evidence.
Sciatica Treatment and Chiropractic Research:
- Valter Santilli (2005) published an article in the “Spine Journal” demonstrating the benefits and subsequent improvements for sciatica following Chiropractic manipulation of the lumbar spine
- A 1981 paper titled Spinal manipulation for lower back pain, written by F.Hoeler and colleagues showed how Chiropractic management was as effective as prescription medicine without any adverse side effects.