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Who to See for Sciatica? Chiropractor or Physiotherapist?

Choosing between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist for sciatica treatment needs knowning the differences of these two practitioners.

Sciatica is a debilitating condition and can cause significant pain and hindrance to one’s day to day life and activities. Sciatic pain is very uncomfortable and those that suffer from this condition find themselves feeling limited in what they can and cannot do.

Oftentimes, they cannot bend or sit for too long as well as garden or drive as these activities tend to exacerbate their pain.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatic nerve pain pertains to the inflammation of the sciatic nerve. It is a symptom rather than a diagnosis. This symptom can occur together with other indicators of nerve irritation and is commonly known as “sciatica”.

sciatica refers to inflammation of the sciatic nerve which is a peripheral nerve that runs down the back of each leg.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Sciatica is not a diagnosis; it’s a symptom on its own. Sometimes, other symptoms accompany sciatica, indicating that a nerve root might be irritated. But remember, all these symptoms don’t have to happen together for it to be sciatica.

Some of the most common sciatica symptoms include:

  • Persistent, uncomfortable sensation in the buttock or back of the thigh.
  • Intense and sudden electric-like pain in the buttock, or radiating down the affected leg.
  • Feeling a sensation in your buttock or thigh, like numbness or tingling.
  • Feeling pain in lower part of your back.

Check out this article for more information about sciatica, the causes, symptoms and treatment options.

Dull Ache in the Buttock or Back of the Thigh

Patients often describe a deep and dull ache in their buttock region. This deep and dull ache may or may not also radiate into the back of one leg and the side of the leg.

Sharp Electrical Shooting Pain in the Buttock or Radiating Down the Affected Leg

Patients may describe the pain as an electrical shooting pain in the buttock and also down the side and back of the leg. The pain tends to be positional dependent and worsens as patients try to change positions for example go from a seated position to a standing position. 

Numbness or Tingling in the Buttock or Thigh

Some patients may experience numbness and or tingling in the buttock or the leg. Patients may start to notice weakness in one leg and reduced sensation in the affected thigh and hip.

Lower Back Pain

Sciatica may also be accompanied with lower back pain for some patients. Patients may experience a dull achy pain or a sharper quality of pain in their lower back that may also be accompanied by the leg pain.

Difference Between a Chiropractor and a Physiotherapist?

Chiropractors and physiotherapists both are practitioners that work on the body and help people manage their pains and injuries.

The two fields historically have some distinctions. For example, physiotherapists have more training to work in hospitals, post surgical rehabilitation as well as return back to work injuries. Some physiotherapists also have training in the use of IMS.

On the other side, chiropractors have more training and expertise in spinal conditions, nerve related pain and disc herniations as well as adjustment techniques and spinal alignment issues.

In today’s world, both chiropractors and physiotherapists can treat all different musculoskeletal pains and they are both qualified to attend many continuing education seminars to expand their knowledge in areas of their interest and expertise.

Both practitioners are qualified to treat conditions such as sciatica and in fact, working with both a physiotherapist and a chiropractor side by side may yield faster recovery as you have two different approaches and skillsets working on your condition.

How Chiropractors Treat Sciatica?

All chiropractic treatment sessions start with an initial visit that includes an interview process, an orthopedic assessment and examination as well as neurological testing to determine the source of the nerve compression and the root cause of the issue.

One common approach of chiropractic treatment for sciatica is by looking at pelvic alignment, hip alignment and lumbar alignment. Chiropractors may notice that a torsion or a pull in one of the indicated joints is creating some compression on the nerve.

Their treatments may involve correction of the spinal and or hip alignment in addition to soft tissue therapy and nerve therapy to alleviate the nerve pain.

Some chiropractors may prescribe home care exercises. 

How a Physiotherapist Handles Sciatica?

The initial physiotherapy visit will involve a thorough interview process to better understand the source of the pain as well as orthopedic assessments to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

The physiotherapy approach for sciatica treatment can involve using various techniques and modalities for example manual therapy, Intramuscular stimulation through needles and or electric modalities. They may also prescribe exercises and home care to assist in a faster recovery.

Your physiotherapist may also give you home education and exercise prescription to assist with your recovery at home.

Should You See a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor for Sciatica?

Each practitioner has different approaches, techniques and skillset to treat sciatica. All of them have knowledge, training and expertise in treating sciatica and the various approaches can all be beneficial in different circumstances.

For example, treatment of sciatica may require manual therapy and muscle release as well as exercise prescription and nerve related rehabilitation. All these techniques may be appropriate at different stages of recovery.

Physiotherapists and chiropractors are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to assess the condition, determine the phase of the injury as well as the severity and to recommend an appropriate treatment plan based on the presentation.

If you are wondering if you should see a chiropractor or physiotherapist, we suggest choose one that can assess your issue and someone that would feel comfortable co-treating your sciatica with other providers for best results.

Sciatica Treatment at Fulcrum Therapy

At Fulcrum Therapy, our chiropractors and physiotherapists are all equipped with tremendous knowledge, skill and experience to treat sciatica.

We are proud to say that we work extremely collaboratively together and if we believe co treating with chiro and physio at the same time will result in faster and better recovery, we don’t hesitate to recommend that to you.

Our approach to care is patient centered. This means that if we believe another practitioner would be more suitable to treat your condition, we don’t hesitate to refer you to someone else either.

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