Relieving Pain from Sciatica with Osteopathy
Sciatica is a common ailment affecting mainly the elderly and pregnant women. It is characterised by pain throughout the lower limbs and in 95% of cases is due to a herniated disc. Even if the sensations experienced are unpleasant: a burning feeling, numbness in the leg, loss of feeling… the condition is often benign and can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers. However, if the pain persists, osteopathy can be used to relieve it.
Sciatica, a form of neuralgia that spreads down the leg
What is sciatica? | Definition
This is the name given to neuralgia affecting the sciatic nerve. It causes pain along the path of this nerve, i.e. all along the lower limbs (legs). It may be associated with lumbago (crossed back), in which case it is known as lumbosciatica.
Sciatica, caused by compression of the spinal nerves implanted in the spinal column, can affect both legs.
The sciatic nerve, the largest in the body, is known as a mixed nerve. It provides both sensitivity and motor control for part of the lower limbs. It originates in the lower back at the level of the spinal cord and descends into the lumbar canal bordered by vertebrae. Its two main roots are located between:
- the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae (L4 and L5);
- the 5th lumbar vertebra and the 1st sacral vertebra (L5 and S1).
Different types of sciatica exist.
- Lumbosciatica is the most common. It is characterised by pain in the lower back which spreads to the lower limbs.
- Hyperalgesic sciatica is extremely painful and resistant to painkillers.
- Sciatica with cauda equina syndrome, which leads to a loss of feeling in the lower limbs. It must be treated by neurosurgery.
- Paralysing sciatica, which prevents certain movements of the leg.
The symptoms of this neuralgia
The most common complaint is pain radiating from the lower back through the buttock and down to the toes.
But sciatica can also manifest itself as pain similar to electric shocks, a tingling sensation in the leg or foot, numbness in the lower limb or muscle weakness.
Causes and risk factors
Sciatica is not a disease, but rather a structural dysfunction characterised by compression of the spinal nerves. In the vast majority of cases, it is caused by a herniated disc (the crushing of an intervertebral disc that irritates the sciatic nerve).
However, there are a number of conditions that can cause this type of neuralgia:
- pregnancy (especially in the last trimester);
- osteoarthritis of the lumbar vertebrae (narrowing of the lumbar canal or spondylolisthesis, i.e. a slippage of one vertebra in relation to another);
- osteoporosis, which causes the vertebrae to collapse;
- an infection of the spine;
- ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory disease of the spine).
In addition, certain factors such as being overweight, having weak abdominal muscles, repeatedly carrying heavy loads or practising sport too intensively increase the risk of developing sciatica.
Put an end to your sciatic pain with osteopathy
Manual therapy to relieve inflammation
Sciatica is a frequent reason for emergency osteopathic treatment. In fact, this method can be particularly effective in relieving associated pain. The practitioner will not only seek to treat the symptoms, but also determine their origin.
During a session, the therapist will ask about the patient’s medical history. This stage, during which the therapist familiarises themselves with the patient, enables them to establish the link between the symptoms, the patient’s medical history and their lifestyle.
Once this has been done, the therapist will identify the areas causing pain. In the end, osteopathic treatment will reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve. The osteopath can, for example:
- restore mobility to the lumbar vertebrae in order to halt irritation of the sciatic nerve;
- restore motor function to the lower pelvic organs (bladder, uterus), which may be compressing the nerve. They then apply visceral techniques;
- restore flexibility to the piriformis if it presses on the sciatic nerve by relaxing the muscle. This compression is the cause of what is known as truncated sciatica, as the pain is only felt in one part of the leg;
- lift certain local muscular contractures that press the nerve along its path.
This natural method takes into account the body as a whole. Consequently, during any consultation, the therapist will look for the existence of other blockages that could have an impact on the sciatica. For example, a cranial dysfunction may have an influence on the sacrum. This, in turn, causes piriformis contractures and leads to the onset of sciatica.
Osteopathy sessions as a means of preventing sciatica | Advice and postures to adopt
Osteopathic consultations to relieve pain from sciatica are often emergency procedures. However, to avoid any risk of recurrence, patients are advised to see a professional once or twice a year.
As well as carrying out a complete assessment of your body’s structures, your osteopath will give you recommendations. These should be implemented according to your profile. For example, you may want to:
- practice a moderate sporting activity to strengthen your back, such as walking or swimming;
- become aware of your posture on a daily basis and reorganising your workspace (office chair);
- protect your back when carrying heavy loads by squatting or pushing objects;
- Opt for backpacks rather than handbags;
- adopt a healthier lifestyle;
Osteopathy is a natural method of effectively relieving pain caused by sciatica. The practitioner uses gentle manipulations to release the various pressures exerted on the nerve. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body remain the best ways to stay in good health. Don’t hesitate to ask your osteopath for advice on postures to adopt, physical activities, warm-up and stretching methods, etc.
Are you suffering from sciatica that is preventing you from moving?Our osteopaths offer emergency consultations at your home or workplace, 7 days a week, throughout the island of Montreal.