Back pain accounts for up to 70% of presenting patients seen by chiropractic physicians. A substantial number of those patients have sciatic— the popular term for pain radiating into the back of the leg. Sciatica is also a major cost of work related disability.
If left untreated, sciatica can lead to nerve damage in the leg, resulting in numbness and a loss of muscle strength that may be irreversible. In severe cases of spinal pathology the nerves that supply the muscles controlling the bowel and bladder may be affected, resulting in incontinence or sexual dysfunction.
Spinal manipulation, a treatment offered by chiropractors, has been proven highly effective as a treatment for this disorder. Spinal manipulation is often combined with therapeutic modalities, such as electric stimulation and ultrasound, to maximize relief. Exercises are also commonly used to increase flexibility and strength, which assists in the healing process and prevents reoccurrence.
For most people, sciatica responds very well to conservative care, including chiropractic. Treatment plans will often vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem.
Unless advised otherwise by your doctor of chiropractic, remain active and avoid prolonged bed rest. Inactivity can make your symptoms worse, whereas regular exercise has been shown to reduce the intensity of pain associated with sciatica.
Fortunately, 80 to 90 percent of patients with sciatica recover without surgery. If surgery is warranted or your doctor of chiropractic feels it would be best to co-manage your condition with another provider, however, he or she will refer you to a local specialist.
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