Why is my sciatica worse after chiropractor?

Answered by Edward Huber

The sciatica is a condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down through the buttocks and into the legs. Many people seek relief from chiropractors for their sciatica, hoping that spinal adjustments will alleviate their pain. However, it is not uncommon for some individuals to experience an increase in symptoms following chiropractic treatment. This can be a confusing and frustrating experience, but it is important to understand why this may occur.

1. Initial Inflammation: When the spine is adjusted, it can cause a temporary inflammatory response in the surrounding tissues. This inflammation can irritate the sciatic nerve and temporarily worsen the symptoms of sciatica. It is similar to how a bruise may become more painful and swollen immediately after it occurs. This initial increase in inflammation should subside within a few days as the body’s natural healing processes take over.

2. Muscular Tension and Spasm: Misaligned vertebrae and nerve impingements can lead to compensatory muscle tension and spasm in the surrounding area. When a chiropractor adjusts the spine, it can release these muscles from their contracted state, causing them to relax. However, this sudden release of tension can also cause temporary discomfort and an increase in sciatic symptoms. The muscles need time to adjust and regain balance after the adjustment, which may result in a temporary exacerbation of symptoms.

3. Nerve Sensitivity: Misaligned vertebrae can place pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain and other symptoms. Chiropractic adjustments aim to realign the spine and relieve this pressure. However, after an adjustment, the nerves may need time to adjust to their new position. While the pressure on the nerves caused by misaligned vertebrae might have caused pain before the treatment, the nerves still have to adapt to the new space created by the adjustment. This adjustment period can result in a temporary increase in sciatic symptoms before the nerves fully acclimate to the new posture.

4. Healing Process: Chiropractic adjustments stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. This means that after an adjustment, the body may go through a healing phase where it reorganizes and repairs the affected tissues. During this healing process, there may be temporary discomfort and an increase in symptoms as the body works to restore proper function. It is important to remember that healing is not always linear, and there may be ups and downs along the way.

5. Underlying Conditions: In some cases, the underlying cause of sciatica may not be solely related to spinal misalignment. Other factors such as herniated discs, muscle imbalances, or inflammation may contribute to the symptoms. Chiropractic adjustments may address the spinal component of the condition but may not fully resolve other contributing factors. As a result, some individuals may experience temporary worsening of symptoms until these additional factors are addressed.

It is essential to communicate with your chiropractor about any changes or increases in symptoms following treatment. They can evaluate your situation and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan. It is also crucial to give your body time to heal and adjust after chiropractic care. In many cases, the temporary exacerbation of symptoms is a normal part of the healing process and should subside as your body continues to adapt to the changes made during the adjustments.