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Sciatica is a problem that affects a large number of people these days. It is basically a pain syndrome that is caused when the sciatic nerve, the main nerve supplying the lower back and the limbs, is compressed by the small muscles in the pelvis. The piriformis muscle is the one most implicated in the compression of the nerve, since it passes through it when leaving the pelvis and entering the lower limb. One of the techniques that can be used in the treatment of sciatica caused by piriformis syndrome is Active Release Techniques® (ART).

The pathophysiology of sciatica

Sciatica can be brought on by the compression of the sciatic nerve by the piriformis muscle. The latter usually goes into a spasm for a prolonged period of time, leading to compression of the nerve. The spasm can lead to a compromise in the blood supply to the muscle itself as well as the nerve, which will further complicate the problem. Sciatica often can also be caused by disc injuries and herniations, and normally is a differential diagnosis to piriformis syndrome. Specific orthopedic tests help chiropractors assess the root cause of the sciatica before commencing any treatment.

The consequences of the problem

There are a number of consequences that can arise as a result of sciatica. Reduction in overall body ranges of motion can be expected, accompanied by searing or sharp pain that can be unbearable. This can make it very difficult for your day to day life; carrying out daily tasks such as going to work and school may become impossible due to the severity of the problem. When the problem is not attended to on time, it may end up causing permanent damage to the sciatic nerve.

The conventional treatments

There are a number of conventional treatments that can be tried depending on the severity of the problem. One of these is an injection of a drug that can relax the muscle so that it no longer compresses the nerve. It has also been shown that drugs such as steroids can also have an effect on reducing the pain and disability associated with the condition. When the pharmacological methods do not result in any improvement, surgical ones can be tried. The most common of these is a surgery to release the nerve from the muscle by cutting away part of the muscle.

The role of Active Release Techniques®

Another way to try and solve the problem would be through the use of a specialized treatment called Active Release Techniques® (ART). This is a form of therapy that involves manipulation of soft tissues (muscles, fascia, and nerves) in order to achieve a certain goal. In the setting of sciatica, ART can be used to reduce the spasm and remove adhesions of the muscle that may be entrapping the nerve. As the adhesions are removed through specific manual techniques, the nerve can slide better under the soft tissue, and sciatica symptoms can resolve relatively quickly. There are a number of things you can do to increase the efficacy of this treatment. Early start to treatment helps in quicker and long-lasting resolution of symptoms.

ART therapy is generally provided by skilled therapists like our Toronto chiropractors, who must maintain their accreditation through continuing education on a yearly suface.This therapy is a technical procedure that needs quite a bit of experience and skill in order to be effective and provide quick results.


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