Sciatica is pain that travels from the low back down the back of the leg sometimes as far as the big toe. Compression of the sciatic nerve by bone, muscle, or intervertebral disc tissue are the most common secondary causes of this type of leg and low back pain. The primary cause of the mechanical compression is structural imbalance of the entire skeletal framework that causes imbalance of surrounding tissues.
Increased stress on muscular components of the gluteus (your rear-end) and piriformis can cause sciatica that may be relieved by stretching. Other times sciatica may be caused by a degenerative or traumatic situation where bone or fibrocartilage has come into contact with nerve tissue. This would be a more likely cause in cases with pain that is constant in one or even both legs.
A variety of treatment options are available to people suffering with sciatica. NSAIDs, muscle relaxers, steroids, epidurals, and pain medication are among the most common first choice for many. Physical therapists can administer exercises and stretching routines that offer helpful long-term solutions if adhered to. Surgery can provide relief but is expensive, invasive, and not guaranteed to be effective. Alternatives such as acupuncture and chiropractic have also provided a solution for many sufferers.
Chiropractic adjustments of the pelvis and low back are the go-to solutions that most chiropractors will turn to when addressing sciatica. While this is the intuitive route, it is not always an effective long-term solution if the problem did not start at the hips or low back. Studies suggest that the postural control mechanisms of the body are dependent upon sensors in the soft tissues of the upper neck. This relates back to proper alignment the head and neck that improves neurological and structural balance. In other words, misalignment and degeneration of the parts of the low back and pelvis causing sciatica are the direct result of a primary misalignment at the base of the skull. Reversing the misalignment at the base of the skull can re-set the body structurally and neurologically to achieve a long-term alleviation of sciatica.
Dr. Lyle W. Sherman was one of the earliest chiropractic researchers to comment on the response of sciatica to spinal correction via upper cervical care. This report was contained in a 1940's publication authored by Dr. Sherman titled "Neurocalometer, Neurocalograph, Neurotempometer Research As applied to Eight B.J. Palmer Chiropractic Clinic Cases." The eight cases included cancer of the liver, sciatica, adult epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, hydrocephalus, pediatric epilepsy, and tumors. Each case included a day by day case report and record of heat differential graph readings similar to the infrared readings we take in the office today.
After one adjustment of the upper neck, daily observation, and almost three months of healing time the patient gave positive subjective reports regarding his condition, was able to return to work, and demonstrated a correction of curvature of his spine that was verified by x-ray. A year later, a follow-up revealed that he was still in good health and had only received three adjustments since the one he received in the research clinic that initiated his recovery. These case records were later published in Dr. B.J. Palmer's textbook Volume 25 for educational purposes.
A search for contemporary research articles pertaining to chiropractic and sciatica will return about 83 different papers from the last 30 years or so. This is a relatively low number and even less than that pertain to subluxation correction and sciatica relief. I contend that this is because sciatica has been a generally accepted mainstay of the chiropractic profession for many years due to its relationship to low back pain. Positive responses are a common occurrence in the chiropractic practice.
In conclusion, varied forms of chiropractic care have been effective at helping people with sciatica and should be considered as an early strategy for dealing with this condition. Specific upper cervical care in particular may provide a long-lasting result for sciatica while also promoting total health restoration through improved neurological function.
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