A disc injury may occur seemingly for no reason, or there can be a specific event, such as a lifting injury involving bending forward and twisting at the same time. People often walk with a limp and lean to one side i.e. on the “good leg”. There is often pain/tingling/pins & needles in the back of the thigh, calf region, and sometimes into the foot too. There may be weakness in the affected leg/foot/toes. Sometimes the pain in the lower back is mild in comparison with the pain the leg.
MRI scans have shown that, in most cases, the herniated part of the disc shrinks back over time. This is called resorption. Most people are completely better after 2 years, even if they receive not treatment. So, there is a natural healing taking place. There are all sorts of treatments available for sciatica – how do you know what’s best, and will any form of treatment help? Surgery for disc herniations used to be performed routinely – nowadays it is very rarely performed because research has shown that the results are no better in the long run. So, what can osteopathy offer a patient with a disc injury? Just as with other conditions, osteopathic treatment is focused around improving the blood supply to the region, allowing better drainage from the affected area. Treatment has the objective of harnessing the body’s own healing mechanisms so as to reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. My own approach is to use a gentle, rhythmic approach called harmonics, along with a combination of stretching, working with the muscles, and freeing up other areas of the spine which are restricted. Reassurance and advice to the patient are also key to the recovery process.
Tips for dealing with Sciatica (as expected!) this does not constitute medical advice
1. Movement, in principle, is a good thing e.g. walking. Don’t lie down all the time.
2. Try putting a pillow between your knees if you lie on your side at night.
3. Try lying on the floor rather than the sofa if you’re watching tv.
4. If you lie on your back, try 2-4 pillows under your knees.
5. AT ALL COSTS avoid bending forward and twisting to the side.
6. If you have to cough, make sure you don’t twist at the same time.