Understanding Sciatica- Prevention and Treatment through Chiropractic

On average, more people visit the Chiropractor for help with back pain than anything else – indeed, it’s what we’re best known for! After back pain, however, Sciatica is right up there with our most treated conditions. If you’re just learning about Sciatica, here’s what you need to know!


What is Sciatica?

Nearly everyone will have back pain at some point in life, but with sciatica, you’ll know something is different immediately. Pain that begins in your back, travels down to your buttocks, and shoots down your leg is a classic sign of sciatica. What’s leg pain got to do with the spine?  – in fact, the shooting pain down your leg is caused by compression on nerves exiting your spine, and it only takes a tiny amount of pressure to cause tremendous pain, so getting rid of the inflammation and opening up space for the nerve is essential to start finding relief.

Pinching or compression on a spinal nerve can occur because of an injury to one of your spinal discs (such as disc herniation), the development of a bone spur, or ligaments that have increased in size. Either way, it’s likely to cause pain and discomfort until you can decrease the inflammation, open up space for the nerve, or improve the movement of the spinal joint.

The sciatic nerve is interesting – not just because it can cause of a lot of pain, but also because it’s the largest nerve in the body. It is made up of individual branches or nerve roots in your lower back that combine to form the sciatic nerve, which then travels down into your legs. This is why increased leg pain when sitting, weakness in your leg/foot, and sharp pain that makes walking difficult are common symptoms people experience when the sciatic nerve is pinched or irritated.


How Can We Treat Sciatica?

While some people experiencing sciatica think (or fear) that a serious intervention will be required, the fact is that sciatica often resolves without resorting to risky medications or surgery. It’s true that simply left alone, some cases will eventually resolve (this is especially true if you’ve suffered an injury rather than a slow onset of the pain). If you’d like faster relief, however, research has shown that as many as 89% of patients suffering from sciatica responded very well to chiropractic adjustments[1] and other manual therapies and exercise based approach can stand a god chance of working too. That being said, some research suggests that the chiropractic approach may have an edge – a recent paper found that 20% more patients experienced relief with spinal adjustments than exercise alone.[2]


Can I Prevent Sciatica in the First Place?!

It’s easy to understand how lifting a heavy object at work could injure your back, pinch a nerve, and cause sciatica. But, surprisingly, research has shown that too much sitting may actually be the worst thing you could do for your back. When you spend hours per day sitting down, the muscles that support your low back can start to deteriorate or atrophy. Without strong, stabilizing muscles to support your discs and nerves, it’s no surprise that you are more likely to injure your back, even when lifting lightweight items around the house.

Fortunately, preventing sciatica may be easier than you think. New research indicates that consistent exercise can stop or even reverse the effects of too much sitting. Thirty minutes of exercise each day can help strengthen the supporting muscles around your spinal column and help prevent future episodes of sciatica. Getting periodic spinal adjustments may also be a great idea. The top research journal SPINE found that maintained chiropractic care can evaluate, detect, and potentially prevent future disc problems and low back pain episodes.[3]


How to Overcome Sciatica

If you’re struggling with Sciatica, start to take action by setting a daily schedule of exercise. If time is tight, just take a few minutes every hour at work to walk around the office. Remember, starting small is better than not starting at all. And, as days become weeks, months, and years, the exercise you do now will pay huge dividends down the road to keep you happy, healthy, and pain-free. With a bit of luck, a proactive approach like this will quickly improve things for you – however, if you find yourself in too much discomfort to exercise, or don’t notice any improvements after a few weeks, why get in touch with us and give yourself the Chiropractic advantage!



[1] Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. JMPT 2010

[2] Outcomes of Acute and Chronic Patients with Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Confirmed Symptomatic Lumbar Disc Herniations Receiving High-Velocity, Low-Amplitude, Spinal Manipulative Therapy: A Prospective Observational Cohort Study with One Year Follow-Up Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. March/April 2014

[3] Does Maintained Spinal Manipulation Therapy for Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain Result in Better Long-Term Outcome? SPINE. 2011

Blog by / June 2, 2024 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007