Updated: Apr 12
If you suffer from sciatica, you already know the pain and discomfort the condition can bring. Perhaps you’ve tried exercises at home to alleviate symptoms or maybe you’ve considered booking an appointment with a chiropractor or osteopath for sciatica.
But which profession is best for helping you with the back and leg pain associated with compression of the sciatic nerve? In this article, we’ll explore more about the condition and who you can turn to for immediate relief from sciatic pain.
What is sciatica?
Some types of back pain are hard to diagnose and treat. Sciatica, on the other hand, can be quite easy to identify. This is because the pain typically runs along the path of the sciatic nerve, from the lower back and down the back of the leg to the foot.
Sciatica is usually caused by a herniated disc (also known as a slipped disc) in your lower (lumbar) spine. Discs in the spine are designed to cushion and separate the bones that make up the vertebrae. When a disc gets worn down, it can start to push away from its hard outer ring and put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
The sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and runs down through your hips, legs, and feet on both sides of the body. It is also the longest nerve in the body which is why pain can be experienced over a wide area.
Symptoms of sciatica include:
Throbbing pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks or legs
Pain down the leg or in the buttock
Pins and needles, tingling or numbness in the thigh, calf, or foot
Difficulty in controlling or moving the leg
Lower back pain that is worse when driving, coughing, sneezing or sitting for long periods of time
What causes sciatica to flare up?
Sciatica can flare up out of the blue for seemingly no reason but is often associated with the following factors:
Age: As we grow older, we grow more susceptible to herniated discs and other problems with the spine.
Obesity: Being overweight can put stress on the spine which can in turn put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Occupation: If you have a job that involves carrying heavy loads, twisting the spine, or driving a vehicle for long periods, you might be more susceptible to sciatica.
Sitting for long periods: Do you sit at a desk all day or have long periods where you don’t move much? This can cause a sciatica flare-up.
Diabetes: Diabetes impacts the way the body uses blood sugar and can cause nerve damage.
Sports injury: A sports injury can also cause sciatica to flare up.
Sciatica pain can also be caused by something as innocuous as bending down to pick something up. It’s important to recognise which triggers or factors affect you so that you can take affirmative action. From losing weight or strength training to osteopathic or chiropractic treatment or sports massage, there are many ways you can take back control.
How a chiropractor can help
Chiropractic treatment is designed to encourage the body to heal itself. These non-invasive, non-surgical, and drug-free treatments are built on the scientific principle that restricted movement of the spine leads to reduced function and pain and discomfort.
The way your chiropractor delivers treatment will depend on the cause of your sciatica and may involve one or a range of different therapies. Here are just some of the most common treatment modalities chiropractors use to treat sciatica:
Cold/ice or heat therapy - depending on the cause of your sciatica, which the chiropractor will be able to determine, the application of ice or heat may be advised. Ice can help to reduce inflammation, whereas heat can help to ease tight muscles and restrictions. The chiropractor will advise accordingly to help reduce sciatic pain.
Spinal adjustments and manipulation - spinal adjustments and manipulation are at the core of chiropractic care. Spinal adjustments can help to reduce nerve inflammation and muscle spasms. Spinal manipulation may be used in different areas to where the injury is, for example with a disc prolapse, adjustments may be used on segments above or below the injured disc to avoid aggravation and encourage better movement elsewhere, to take pressure off the injury.
Spinal decompression – chiropractors may use techniques to help lengthen out the spine to ease pressure on discs and other structures that may be affecting the sciatic nerve, giving you sciatica
Soft tissue release – specific massage techniques can be used by chiropractors to help ease tight muscles that may be contributing to sciatica
Pelvic blocks – during your treatment, cushioned blocks may be used under the pelvis to support it in a position to help rebalance the muscles and relieve your sciatica.
How an osteopath can help
Osteopathy involves seeking the underlying cause of pain to relieve the symptoms of the sufferer. Where sciatica is concerned, this might involve improving joint mobility, reducing muscle spasms, and improving the overall function of the spine.
Just like chiropractors take a tailored approach to treatment, osteopaths determine the root cause of the sciatica pain and develop a suitable treatment plan. Treatment may involve the following:
Manual joint manipulation or adjustments, joint release techniques used, sometimes above or below the affected segments to help get the joints moving better and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve
Joint mobilisation or articulation – encouraging the joints to move in a better way, to take pressure of the sciatic nerve
Stretching – to help open up areas of tightness to release tension on the sciatic nerve
Muscle or tendon manipulation or massage – to help reduce tension on muscles that are either directly or indirectly causing compression on the sciatic nerve
Dry needling – our osteopaths at SoCo Therapies are also trained in dry needling and may use this technique to improve healing to the area and reduce nerve symptoms.
Osteopathy can treat a wide selection of conditions. Whether your sciatica is caused by a slipped disc or a problem with your muscles or joints, your osteopath will use a variety of techniques and treatments to get you back on your feet.
Who comes out on top - osteopath or chiropractor?
So, should you book in with a chiropractor or osteopath for lower back pain and sciatica? Well, the truth is that both specialists can help you with this condition. They are both highly qualified in diagnosing and treating nerve-related issues, such as sciatica.
You may find that chiropractors may use a more focused approach to treatment, though they still look at the body functioning as a whole, whereas osteopaths may use some broader techniques as part of their treatment plan before focusing on the area where the sciatica is stemming from.
The treatment methods used by an osteopath and a chiropractor may not always vary that much when treating sciatica. Rather than focusing on the type of practitioner, it may be more helpful to assess a practitioner’s level of experience and whether they have dealt with many similar cases.
Our osteopaths and chiropractors at SoCo Therapies are highly qualified, with many years’ experience of treating patients with sciatica, in fact, it’s one of the most common things we see!
It is important to see someone who will not only relieve you of your symptoms, but also prevent issues coming back. Our chiropractors and osteopaths will be able to give you an exact cause of your sciatica and give you tips and exercises to help prevent any further issues.
You might also consider visiting another type of specialist, such as a sports injuries specialist, such as a sports therapist if your condition was caused by a sporting injury.
Book a free consultation today
If you’re looking for freedom from sciatica pain and discomfort, speak to the team at SoCo Therapies. Our osteopaths and chiropractors have years of experience in treating this condition and will focus on reducing and eliminating your pain for good. Call us today at 01202 422 000 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should I go to a doctor or chiropractor for sciatica?
Chiropractic care for sciatica is the best way to get relief from your symptoms without surgery or drugs.
Is it worth seeing an osteopath for sciatica?
Yes, absolutely. An osteopath will formulate a tailored plan that eliminates sciatica pain by treating the body as a whole.
Can a chiropractor fix a sciatic nerve?
Chiropractors are specialised in dealing with conditions of the spine. Using a range of techniques, your chiropractor will reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve and eliminate pain and discomfort.
What is the best practitioner for sciatica?
Both osteopaths and chiropractors have the skills and experience to alleviate the pain associated with sciatica.
Are chiropractors better than osteopaths?
Both professions are dedicated to healing the body and reducing pain. Each takes a different approach but with the same outcome in mind.
Chiropractor, physio, or osteopath for sciatica?
All of these professions can help with sciatica. Which treatment is most successful will depend on the cause of your sciatica.
What should you not do with sciatica?
If you have sciatica, you should avoid:
Sitting for long periods
Exercises that stretch the hamstrings
Avoid twisting your spine
Sitting in an unsuitable office chair
Avoid exercises that stretch the hamstrings