Chiropractic Care for Sciatica

back painSciatica when used in its everyday sense describes a symptom.

The symptom of pain, felt either just down the back of the thigh or all the way down the back of the leg to the foot.

Sciatica can be with or without back pain. It can be intermittent or constant. A slight irritation or completely debilitating. And it can be caused by a variety of abnormal changes in your lower back and pelvis. Therefore one persons ‘sciatica’ is not the same as the next persons.

Your sciatic nerve starts at the lower segments of your spine, it runs through the back of the hip and buttock and down the back of your thigh.  The sciatic nerve sends off smaller nerves along the way which innervate different structures in your leg.

So what causes Sciatica?

Depending on which tissues are affected the type and amount of pain you feel can vary.  There might be sharp, burning or tingling pain. It is often only on one side and may be associated with a sense of numbness or weakness in the leg.

The most common cause of sciatica is from a disc bulge in your lower back.  Although it can also be caused by degeneration of the lower spinal levels, spondylolisthesis (forward displacement of a vertebrae), abnormal sacroiliac joint function (either side of your tail bone), a tight piriformis muscle in the back of the hip, muscle strain, pregnancy or trauma. Uncommonly it can also be due to pathology such as infection or tumour.

How can Chiropractic Therapy help with sciatica?

sciaticaDepending on the cause of your sciatica, chiropractic therapy will be applied in a way that is specific to you and your needs.  Research has found that the application of highly skilled chiropractic adjustments to the lumbar spine is effective in relieving lower back pain and sciatica. 60% of patients in one trial had the same relief from chiropractic therapy for sciatica as they would have had they had spinal surgery. Chiropractic Therapy has also been shown to enhance a patient’s self-motivation and coping abilities which helps to decrease the chance of developing a chronic pain syndrome.

At Better Health Chiropractic we work to not only decrease your pain, but to strengthen your body and nervous system and to educate you in how you can manage and care for yourself.

What changes can you make today to relieve sciatica? 

Many people believe that resting is the best way to heal, but when it comes to back pain it is important to understand that “hurt does not always equal harm”. Prolonged bed rest can lead to a loss of muscle strength and can increase muscle stiffness, adding to the pain and discomfort. The most important thing is to get moving again. Activity and stretching often helps with pain relief. Walking is especially beneficial.

Seeking early treatment is highly effective in preventing long term pain and disability. The ‘wait and see’ approach is ill-advised today where research has shown the effectiveness of early intervention by manual therapy and non-invasive techniques.

If you are suffering with sciatica, you should not attempt to self-treat. Sciatica can last for much longer than expected, especially when more permanent damage has occurred. A professional has the knowledge and expertise to recognise these risks early on and can direct you to the best treatment options for your individual situation. Seek professional advice early on and thank yourself later that you did.

Dr Laura Garnett

Dr Laura Garnett


References & further reading

  1. Gordon McMorland, DCaEsther Suter, PhDbSteve Casha, MD, PhD, FRCSCc,Stephan J. du Plessis, MDc John Hurlbert, MD, PhD, FRCSC, FACSc. Manipulation Or Microdiskectomy For Sciatica? A Prospective Randomized Clinical Study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Volume 33, Issue 8, October 2010, Pages 576–584
  2. Valter Santilli, MD, Ettore Beghi, MD, Stefano Finucci, MD. Chiropractic Manipulation In The Treatment Of Acute Back Pain And Sciatica With Disc Protrusion: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial Of Active And Simulated Spinal Manipulations. The Spine Journal. March–April, 2006 Volume 6, Issue 2, Pages 131–137 DOI:
  3. Joanne Nyiendo, PhDa, Mitchell Haas, DCa, Bruce Goldberg, MDb, Carol Lloyda. A Descriptive Study Of Medical And Chiropractic Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain And Sciatica: Management By Physicians (Practice Activities) And Patients (Self-Management). Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Volume 24, Issue 9, November–December 2001, Pages 543–551
  4. Globe G, Morris C, Whalen W et al. Chiropractic Management of Low Back Disorders: Report from a Consensus Process. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics November/December 2008: 651-658.
  5. Rubinstein SM, van Middelkoop M, et. al, “Spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low-back pain,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev(2): CD008112. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008112.pub2. PMID 21328304.
  6. Dagenais S, Gay RE, Tricco AC, Freeman MD, Mayer JM (2010), “NASS Contemporary Concepts in Spine Care: Spinal manipulation therapy for acute low back pain,” Spine J10 (10): 918–940. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2010.07.389. PMID 20869008.
  7. Leininger B, Bronfort G, Evans R, Reiter T, “Spinal manipulation or mobilization for radiculopathy: a systematic review,” Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am22 (1): 105–25 (2011). doi:10.1016/j.pmr.2010.11.002. PMID 21292148.
  8. Hahne AJ, Ford JJ, McMeeken JM, “Conservative management of lumbar disc herniation with associated radiculopathy: a systematic review,”Spine35 (11): E488–504 (2010).
  9. Bronfort G, DC, PhD, et al. “Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report,” Chiropractic & Osteopathy2010, 18:3.
  10. Senna, MK, Machaly SA, “Does maintained spinal manipulation therapy for chronic nonspecific low back pain result in better long-term outcome?” Spine36(18):1427-1437 (2011).
  11. Globe G, Morris C, Whalen W et al., “Chiropractic Management of Low Back Disorders: Report from a Consensus Process,” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, November/December 2008: 651-658.