Sciatica and Upper Cervical Care 

 March 13, 2011

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.


Mechanicsville, Virginia — As an upper cervical chiropractor it is always a challenge to explain to someone who is new to chiropractic just how symptoms that are not near the neck could be related to a problem in the neck.  I see a fair amount of sciatica cases.   At any one time we are usually caring for several people who have the horrible pain related to sciatica.  It turns out most have the upper cervical subluxation either as the cause of the pain or the cause of the postural changes that eventually cause disc problems, which irritate the sciatic nerve.  So I’m often trying to explain that connection to sciatica.

A blog post at The Upper Cervical Blog does a great job of explaining and showing with pictures.  I have copied it below.  Please visit the website for much more great information.


From The Upper Cervical Blog: March 8th, 2011, by Dr. William R. Davis Jr., D.C.

Sciatica that affects both legs (bilateral) is slightly less common than one sided (unilateral) sciatic nerve pain. Either leg can be affected individually or both together at once. Bilateral symptoms have a reputation as being a highly variable pain process and most patients demonstrate pain, tingling, weakness or numbness throughout wide ranging areas of the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.
Being an upper cervical chiropractor many people cannot understand how I can get such good results with lower back and leg pain. But the truth is one of the most common conditions that I see in my practice is lower back pain with or without leg pain or sciatica.

So what does the neck have to do with the lower back and legs?

Upper neck misalignments (can) cause the posture of the body to be altered. Accidents and injuries to the head and neck will tear loose the tissue that holds the spine in place which will create a weakness and allow the spine to break down and lock into a stressed position.

The most movable bone in the body is located at the base of the skull and is called the Atlas. When the Atlas has lost it’s normal position the weight of the head is shifted to one side or the other.

Once this shift has taken place the body will begin to compensate. One of the shoulders will typically become lower and the pelvis will distort in order to compensate for lack of balance in the upper neck.

This Functional Pelvic Distortion is the underlying factor in many sciatic cases. This twisting and tilting of the pelvis causes a tethering on the sciatic nerve or nerves, inflammation and muscle spasms in most cases.

Here is an example from my office just last month.

Jim had lower back pain for years and was seeking help for severe degenerative disc disease in the lower back from a spinal decompression center in the area. After receiving the spinal decompression treatment his lower back pain increased and eventually he began getting intense sciatica down both legs.

He was referred to our office by a friend and came in quite sceptical that an upper cervical correction could help his lower back and legs. But at the encouragement of his friend he decided to give it a shot.

He had a history of severe head and neck traumas including several concussions and a auto racing crash at 145 mph.

He was assessed and found to have significant postural problems originating from the upper neck. His head and neck were markedly off to the right side and his pelvis was severely tilted and twisted 3 degrees from level. His thermographic scans showed severe inflammation in the upper neck and lower back.

He had lower back pain mostly on the left side and leg pain from the buttock to the foot on the left and sporadically on the right as well. He also had numbness and tingling on both sides worse in the feet.

He noticed if he moved his head back into extension it would increase the leg pain.

He was barely walking, could not sit for more than 5 minutes and was taking 4 Codeines and 12 Advil per day!

His x-rays showed significant disc degeneration in the lower back and neck and a very complicated and unstable upper cervical misalignment.

We began working on him and results were slow because of the instability of his misalignment. Once he began to hold his correction and the pressure remained off of the nerves for prolonged periods of time, his pain began slowing improving. A 30% reduction in the pain and the majority of the numbness in the legs was gone in the first month. He is in his second month now and his corrections are holding better and better. His hips stay level for weeks at a time and now he is completely off of the pain pills and able to sit for long periods of time again and his pain has gone from a constant 10/10 pain to a sporadic 3/10 pain that has localized to one leg. He and his wife just left on a week long cruise and he is very happy!

I never did any treatment on his lower back! I only corrected the underlying postural problems in the spine that were causing the lower back pain and the sciatica. By balancing out the head and the neck the pelvis is able to stay level and the pressure stays off the nerves.

Who do you know that has recurring lower back pain or sciatica? Who do you know that is considering surgery, decompression, injections or other overpriced and dangerous options?

The best questions to ask to see if upper cervical chiropractic could help you is…

Have you had head or neck traumas in the past?

Do you have obvious postural issues? Head tilts to one side, shoulders uneven, etc.

The results that I see are common in upper cervical offices. If you google upper cervical and sciatica you will see many of the patients who have been helped with sciatica across the country.

Here is the link directly to the article – Check it out – http://theuppercervicalblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/sciatica-and-upper-cervical-care.html

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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