Sciatica inflammation and pain can be debilitating. But did you know that sciatica isn't just impacted by movement and structures in your lower back? Your upper cervical spine can affect your sciatic nerve just as much, if not more, than your lumbar region. You can radically reduce sciatica pain with upper cervical chiropractic care. Read on to discover how upper cervical chiropractic care for sciatica works and how it can benefit you.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica refers to pain that follows the length of your sciatic nerve. This nerve branches out of your lower back on each side and travels through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Most sciatica pain in older people is the result of degenerative disk disease, a bone spur, or lumbar spinal stenosis. For those without a structural problem in the spine, the most common cause of sciatic pain is a misalignment of the cervical spine that puts undue pressure on the muscles and nerves in the neck and back. All of these conditions cause narrowing, pinching, or compression of the nerve. Symptoms include:
Pain in the leg or buttocks that gets worse when sitting
Tingling and/or burning down the leg and into the foot
Numbness, weakness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
Constant pain on one side of the buttocks
Shooting pain in the buttocks and/or lower back that makes it difficult to stand
Sciatica typically only affects one side of the lower body. In most cases, the pain extends from the lower back through the back of the thigh and radiates down the leg. Where the nerve is affected impacts where the symptoms manifest. Some people have a limited area of sharp pain, while others get pain that extends to the ankle, foot, and even the toes.
Underlying health problems, occupation, and a sedentary lifestyle can all increase your risk of suffering from sciatica. These include:
Age: Your spine changes as you age. Herniated disks and bone spurs, the most common causes of sciatica, are just some of the structural changes that occur.
Weight: Excess body weight increases the stress on your spine. This can contribute to spinal changes that trigger sciatica.
Diabetes: Diabetes, especially if it is poorly controlled, can cause damage to the nerves.
Occupation: Physical work such as lifting, twisting, or carrying heavy loads might play a part in exacerbating sciatica.
Prolonged sitting: If you sit at a desk, drive long distances, or are otherwise sedentary for prolonged periods, you are at increased risk for developing sciatica than people who are active in their daily lives.
Pregnancy: Body changes caused by pregnancy include organ displacement and loosening in ligaments and joints. Added pressure on the spine, muscles, and nerves can cause sciatic pain and other symptoms.
How The Upper Cervical Area Affects Sciatica
The upper cervical area refers to the very top of your spinal column, where your spine connects with your skull. If your cervical spine is misaligned, then your head and neck are off-balance. This puts pressure on the nerves that travel down your back and causes your body to compensate for the misalignment by raising one shoulder and hip. In turn, this irritates the nerves in your lumbar spine, including the sciatic nerve. Treating the misalignment and making sure the cervical spine is properly seated means that nerve signals can travel the length of your spine unimpeded.
It should be made clear that if the cause of your sciatic pain is due to lumbar stenosis, herniated discs, or degenerative disease, upper cervical chiropractic care will not help relieve your symptoms or provide sciatica pain relief. However, you may benefit from other forms of chiropractic treatment.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care for Sciatica
Sciatica treatment that includes upper cervical chiropractic care will start with an assessment of your physical symptoms and your medical history, as well as orthopedic tests and possibly x-rays. This is to check for any structural impairments that might be causing your sciatic pain. If it is decided that you would benefit from upper cervical spine treatment, your chiropractor will use gentle adjustment techniques to align your cervical spine. These techniques involve manipulating the muscles and joints into better alignment. They do NOT include twisting, popping, or cracking.
How Chiropractic Care Helps With Sciatica
Chiropractic care helps treat the pain symptoms of sciatica, but also does a great job of addressing the underlying causes. Sciatica is a condition that typically gets worse without treatment, so if your pain persists over time, consider seeking chiropractic care. At Natural Care Chiropractic we aim to help alleviate all of your symptoms.
We use a combination of treatments to manage your sciatica. Chiropractic adjustments are the most common; adjustments help restore normal disc and spine alignment, which takes the pressure off the nerve roots. Other possible treatments include:
Cold and heat therapy to help reduce inflammation, increase circulation to the damaged area, and promote healing.
Manual therapy to treat muscle spasms that pinch the sciatic nerve and cause pain, weakness, and numbness.
Physical therapy to help you strengthen your back, core, and leg muscles. With better muscle strength, you will have better spinal alignment.
Lifestyle adjustments to improve ergonomics at home and at work.
Yoga to increase flexibility and promote healthy blood flow.
Acupuncture to provide natural pain relief without medication.
How Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Helps You Safely Work from Home
Upper cervical chiropractic care is currently fundamental to maintaining your spinal health. So many of us are working at home in makeshift office spaces without the ergonomic features that were available in the actual office. Looking down at keyboards and screens puts stress on your shoulders and neck, which causes muscle tightness and pain.
Have you ever had a massage where the masseuse presses a spot in your neck or shoulder and you feel it all the way in your toes? Pain in one area is typically caused by muscle tightness in another area. Upper cervical chiropractic care treats the atlas (C1 vertebra) and the axis (C2); once the alignment is corrected and the proper curvature in your neck is restored, the muscles all up and down your spine relax. Tension is released, and the tightness that impacts your lower back nerves also disappears. Not only does the range of motion improve, but the pain should lessen, too.
Sciatica Treatment and How It Works
Treatment for sciatica involves reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. If you have a slipped or herniated disk, a bone spur, or spinal stenosis, then your spinal cord, including the sciatic nerve, is being compressed. You may be able to alleviate some of the pain and symptoms with physical therapy or injections, unless your sciatica pain is caused by a specific set of circumstances.
If your sciatic pain is caused by repetitive motion, poor posture, pregnancy, or muscle irritation, chiropractic care will definitely help you. Your chiropractor will use a combination of adjustment and manual therapy to realign the spine. You may need some physical therapy in conjunction with your chiropractic care to work on building the right muscles to support proper alignment.
Why Seek A Chiropractor to Alleviate Sciatica Pain?
If you have ongoing sciatica pain that is not caused by disk or bone problems or lumbar spinal stenosis, and are dissatisfied with traditional medicine's prescription of rest and pain killers, consider natural methods and chiropractic treatments. With true sciatic pain, one of the best things you can do is to keep moving. And pain killers only mask the pain; they do nothing to remedy it. A chiropractic professional will not just treat your pain - they will do their best to support you in truly ridding your body of it.
Can a Chiropractor Help with Sciatica?
Yes! Emphatically yes! Sciatica is one of the most common ailments that cause people to seek chiropractic care. Your chiropractor is well-versed in the treatments that can help. Depending on how severe your pain and symptoms are, your chiropractor will conduct a full assessment and create a treatment plan to get you started. Chiropractic adjustment and manual therapy are the most common treatments, and they are used to help your spine into a proper position. Adjustment usually comes with instructions to use heat and cold therapy at home, along with mild anti-inflammatories.
If you continue to experience pain after a few weeks of chiropractic care, you will want to talk with your chiropractor. They might recommend adding stretching or other exercises to your routine, or suggest acupuncture or physical therapy. All of these are good options that can truly help. By getting to the root cause of your sciatic pain and symptoms, you can restore vitality to your life. Less pain means a better mood and temperament, and moving freely without pain will open your life back up again.