Sciatica is neither a disease nor a medical condition, but a group of symptoms that result from something else. The classic sign of sciatica is pain radiating down the back of the leg, which follows the path of the sciatic nerve and gives the condition its name. Patients with sciatica may also report tingling and numbness in the same area or have weakness in the affected leg. Sciatica can't be cured, so chiropractic treatment is focused on sciatica management.
Sciatica can have a number of different causes, including a herniated lumbar disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis. The bones (vertebrae of the back) are separated by cushions of cartilage called discs. These can rupture and push on the spinal cord, causing sciatic irritation and pain. Aging and degeneration of the spine can cause the same symptoms. Spondylolisthesis is the medical term for a slight dislocation in the spinal joints while the narrowing of the spinal canal is called spinal stenosis.
Increasing age is definitely a factor in sciatica, as it is more likely to develop over time. Most patients with sciatica are over the age of 40. However, an acute injury can also lead to the condition. People who work in jobs that require heavy lifting or who don't use good body mechanics are more prone to degenerative problems and sciatica. Sitting for long periods also stresses the spine and can contribute to sciatica.
Sciatica must be managed; it cannot be cured, and even surgery doesn't always relieve symptoms. Chiropractic adjustments can help keep the spine in alignment. Chiropractors can also help patients learn how to use their bodies correctly and maintain correct posture while lifting. A chiropractor can teach the patient exercises to strengthen the spine and make it more flexible, which reduces the risk of injury and can decrease muscle spasms. Massage and acupuncture may also be part of sciatica management.
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