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More than self-care for Sciatica symptoms

Many of us try to treat our sciatica at home with self-care techniques. The last 2 years of COVID lockdowns have seen most of us try to self manage conditions or learn to live with pain and restrictions. Whilst stretches and pain killers may help relieve your sciatica, the pain will often reoccur or progress over time.

It is important to assess our sciatica as more than just symptomatic pain. Look how it relates to everyday life. Can you still get off the floor easily? Can you bend to pick an object up off the floor? Are you sleeping well? Are you capable of your normal everyday tasks, like vacuuming? If you answered NO to any of these then there is a functional disturbance that is underlying the sciatic pain you feel.

Sciatica Treatment

Sciatica treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Sciatica is just a symptom of an underlying condition and there are a few different medical causes of sciatica. The cause will differentiate the treatment. The stretches given for sciatica caused by the piriformis muscle will differ from the stretches given for a disc herniation that is causing sciatica.

A correct chiropractic diagnosis of the cause of your sciatica will help your practitioner to formulate a treatment plan that is unique to your needs.

Diagnosing the cause

Your chiropractor will take a medical history and conduct a physical examination. Medical imaging may be appropriate in some cases and your chiropractor can refer you for any tests you may need. The aim of the physical exam is to find the cause of sciatica.

Your chiropractor will use orthopaedic testing, neurologically testing, postural and musculoskeletal testing to give you a differential diagnosis and an idea of healing time.

Common causes of sciatica

Lumbar herniated disc – research suggests that up to 90% of true sciatica is caused by a lumbar herniated disc. The disc will normally compress one or more spinal nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve. Orthopaedic testing done by your chiropractor can tell you which nerve root is being compressed. Chiropractors regularly treat herniated discs and have many gentle techniques to help you become pain-free and mobile.

Degeneration – degeneration of the tissues in the lumbar spine can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve. This is a common recurrent cause of sciatica that responds well to regular chiropractic care and exercise.

Lumbar spinal stenosis – foraminal stenosis, causing a narrowing where the nerve exit the spinal cord, can respond well to chiropractic. Central canal stenosis often is only responsive to treatment in its earlier stages and will require surgical intervention as it progresses.

Muscular entrapment – the sciatic nerve passes between the gluteal and piriformis muscles as it progresses down the leg. Tightness in these muscles can irritate the nerve creating sciatic symptoms.

My friend and I both have sciatica! Why am I taking longer to feel better?

The response to treatment may vary considerably between individuals, even if you have the same underlying cause. Several factors, such as occupation, ergonomics, lifestyle, can influence the treatment outcome of sciatica. Because each patient is unique the treatment outcomes can differ. At Hands On Health, we aim to adjust our treatments to get the best outcomes possible for our individual patients.

What does treatment involve?

Most of our treatments for sciatica involve a diagnosis, muscle relief work, adjustments or gentle mobilisations and at-home exercises. There are also options for dry needling, cupping, stretching or spinal distraction therapy. Research shows us that most conditions causing sciatica will improve with physical therapy and/or exercise programs.

If sciatica becomes chronic or recurrent for more than 12 weeks it can become less responsive to treatment. If physical therapy with your chiropractor doesn’t work to reduce sciatica symptoms we will refer you to your GP or another health practitioner for a follow-up assessment.

Typically sciatica will resolve in 4-6weeks. The sooner you receive treatment the sooner we can help reduce your pain and prevent a recurrence.

Book your assessment with us today.


February 28, 2022
Georgina Smith