Chiropractic and Acupuncture for Sciatica
Our Fairfax chiropractor can help you recover from your sciatica by providing integrative treatment of chiropractic and acupuncture for the root condition causing the sciatic nerve pain or nerve pain caused by herniated disc.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a medical condition of pain going down the leg from the lower back. Typically, symptoms are only on one side of the body. Certain causes, however, may result in pain on both sides. Lower back pain is sometimes but not always present. Weakness or numbness may occur in various parts of the leg and foot. Sciatica is typically caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica is usually due to a spinal herniated disc pressing on the lumbar or sacral nerve roots. Other problems that may result in sciatica include spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, and pelvic tumors.
The discs of the spine function both as shock absorbers and spacers to separate the bones of the spine. Thereby the discs allow more space for the spinal nerves to exit from the spinal cord without being “pinched.”
Causes of Sciatic Nerve Pain
The disc can be damaged through a major trauma like lifting something that is very heavy. The disc also can be damaged by repetitive micro-trauma over a period of time. The result of these traumas can be that the disc will thin out, degenerate, bulge, or herniate.
The cartilage of the outer walls of the disc are damaged or weakened to varying degrees due to trauma. As pressure is put onto a disc, the inner material of the disc (nucleus pulposis) is pushed outward. If the cartilage wall that is trying to hold in this nucleus pulposis has been weakened, then the nucleus pulposis can:
- Disc Degeneration | Spinal Stenosis: This is an aging related condition of the discs between vertebrae with loss of cushioning, fragmentation and herniation. Disc degeneration has less shock absorption and the less space for the spinal nerves to exit from the spinal cord, causing a pinched nerve symptoms.
- Bulging Disc – Push out the cartilaginous wall of the disc causing a bulging disc. It is like a bubble in a tire. This bulging disc can put pressure against the spinal cord or nerve being “pinched”.
- Herniated Disc: This is a condition when some of the soft “jelly” pushes out through a tear in tougher exterior. This herniated disc can compress nerve and cause sharp pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg.
Western Medical Approach
Sciatica Pain may be of nociceptive, neuropathic, or psychogenic types. For neuropathic pain due to herniated disks, drugs [aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAID) and opioid analgesics] offer few benefits. Use of drugs do not change the underlying condition [herniated disc], they only mask the symptom. Most patients are simply told to relax at home, stay confined to bed, and take drugs as needed for pain. If the pain persists, more and more drugs are needed, thereby creating more side effects and complications. If the pain becomes worse, invasive treatment such as surgery is often suggested.
Common side effects of aspirin and NSAID’s include gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, gastrointestinal bleeding, tinnitus, blurred vision, dizziness and headache. Serious side effects of newer NSAID’s, also known as Cox-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex (Celecoxib), include significantly higher risk of cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke. Side effects of opioid analgesics such as Vicodin (APAP/Hydrocodone) and morphine include dizziness, lightheadedness, drowsiness, upset stomach, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, rash, difficult urination, and respiratory depression resulting in difficult breathing. Furthermore, long-term use of these drugs may lead to tolerance and addiction.
Integrative Treatment Approach
Treatment of sciatica is a sophisticated balance of art and science. Proper treatment of pain requires a careful evaluation of the type of disharmony (excess or deficiency, cold or heat, exterior or interior) and characteristics (phlegm, qi and/or blood stagnations). Furthermore, optimal treatment requires integrative use of acupuncture, herbs, chiropractic, physiotherapies and myofascial release. For certain condition, spinal decompression therapy may be incorporated to reduces pressure inside the discs of the spine and facilitates the transfer of nutrients and oxygen back into the disc. As a result, spinal decompression allows the herniated and bulging disc to eventually go back into normal position. All these therapies work together to tonify the underlying deficiencies, strengthen the body, and facilitate recovery from acute or chronic pain.
Chiropractic and Acupuncture are effective For Sciatica Pain
Depending on your individual diagnosis, our chiropractor can help you recover from your sciatica by providing integrative treatment for the root condition causing the sciatic nerve pain. Chiropractic care is a particularly effective treatment for most of these conditions because it optimizes spinal alignment to remove pressure from the sciatic nerve, thus providing pain relief.
Acupuncture and TCM will not only work to relieve your sciatica nerve pain, but will treat the underlying sciatica cause of pain. Acupuncture is a highly promising and effective treatment for sciatica symptoms. Our Licensed Acupuncturist will provide sciatica relief treatment and also improvement in the disability that often results from sciatica symptoms.
In addition, our chiropractor may suggest physiotherapy modalities to provide relief from muscle spasms and to reduce inflammation. Therapeutic exercises can also help, particularly as you strengthen your core muscles to better support spinal alignment. Therapeutic exercises can prevent future sciatica attacks.
Acupuncture is very effective to treat the sciatica nerve pain, and chiropractic and myofascial release are effective to correct the structural cause. By addressing both symptom and cause, Integrative therapies often achieve immediate and long-term success. Furthermore, Integrative therapies are often associated with few or no side effects. Integrative use of acupuncture and chiropractic care is excellent for sciatica and herniated discs of mild to moderate severity. When applied properly, they are often very successful to treat sciatica, correct the underlying problem, and restore normal physical functions.
Best care for sciatica pain relief is to understand all available options from western, acupuncture, chiropractic, and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and utilize the most effective modality for each specific condition.