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Sciatica & Chiropractic Care

My father-in-law had terrible sciatica that developed due to a herniated lumbar disc. For years he experienced chronic pain and numbness in his right leg, which made it impossible for him to do the things he’d previously enjoyed - things like golf, jogging and hitting the shops (yes, he’s the rare kind of man who absolutely loves to shop for new clothes.) His sciatica was debilitating, and with surgery scheduled, he gave a “last-ditch” try to avoid the operating room by trying out chiropractic care - he saw an immediate improvement in his symptoms. His experience is not unusual, as you’ll discover in this article.

Sciatica is a painful condition that involves leg pain (and sometimes tingling, numbness or weakness) that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. 

Sciatica symptoms include:

- Chronic pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely, some people experience sciatica in both legs.) 

- Pain that worsens when sitting down

- Leg pain that is burning, tingling or searing (as opposed to a dull ache)

- Weakness, numbness, or problems moving the leg or foot

- Sharp pains that make it difficult to stand or walk

Sciatica is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself - it is a symptom of an underlying health condition.

Some people are relatively fortunate, and their sciatica pain is infrequent and only irritating. Others experience constant, debilitating pain, like my father-in-law. Symptoms can be different in location and severity depending on the underlying condition that is causing the sciatica.

Sciatic symptoms emerge when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed in some way. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the entire body, and is composed of individual nerve roots that branch out from inside the spine and then come together to form the large sciatic nerve. This nerve runs from the lower back through the buttock and down the back of each leg. Portions of the nerve then branch out again in each leg, continuing to the thigh, calf, foot or toes.  

The specific symptoms experienced by each sciatica patient may vary depending on where the nerve is pinched. For example, a pinched lumbar segment five (L5) nerve can cause weakness in the big toe and the ankle. Spinal adjustments and manual manipulation performed by a chiropractor can alleviate symptoms by providing better spinal column alignment, which in turn should help to address a number of underlying conditions that can cause nerve pain. Adjustments and manual manipulation should not be painful, so speak up if you feel any pain during treatment.

My father-in-law continues to see a chiropractor once a month for preventative care, and canceled his appointment for surgery. He now rarely experiences sciatica pain (and takes a quick trip to the chiropractor when it does flare up.) He avoided the operating room and is back on the golf course - a great outcome for chiropractic. 

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