Can A Chiropractor Help With Sciatica?

Can A Chiropractor Help With Sciatica?

Sciatica affects up to 40% of people in their lifetime. It’s a condition that can be debilitating in some cases, with common symptoms including pain, numbness, and weakness. And, while in most instances it gets better in 4-6 weeks, some people struggle with ongoing or reoccurring sciatica over a much longer timeframe.

If you’re struggling with sciatica and looking for a treatment option to ease the symptoms, there are a range of options open to you. Seeing a GP might lead to a referral for pain medication, physical therapy, or even surgery in extreme cases. You can also consider other treatments that fall outside of the traditional medical remit. Chiropractic care is one such option.

We’re here to explore the relationship between sciatica and chiropractors, providing you with information that might help you to decide whether to seek chiropractic treatment.


What is sciatica?

Sciatica is the name given to the symptoms caused when your sciatic nerve is compressed, pinched, or otherwise irritated. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back to your feet, so sciatica tends to affect the lower body exclusively. It’s also often only experienced on one side of the body, since the sciatic nerve splits in two to run down each leg. 

The symptoms of sciatica vary from person to person, but typically come in the form of pain, a tingling sensation, numbness, or weakness affecting the bottom, back, legs, or feet. These symptoms will generally be worsened when moving, sneezing, or coughing.

Some of the most common causes of sciatica include a herniated disk, a bone spur, or a narrowing of the spine. Essentially any injury or condition that causes a change in the body resulting in pressure being put on the sciatic nerve can cause it. 

It will typically resolve itself within 4-6 weeks, but when it doesn’t it can be difficult to tolerate. While severe sciatica makes up the minority of cases, left untreated it can lead to long-term sciatic nerve damage and other side effects. 


Considering chiropractic care for sciatica

Chiropractors work with people suffering from pain or stiffness in the bones or joints. They use techniques called adjustments to re-align the body and relieve pain. They can be thought of as experts in the neuromusculoskeletal system, which basically means they know a lot about how bones, muscles, and nerves.

Since sciatica revolves around problems with a nerve, and often results from issues relating to bones, it stands to reason that chiropractors are a common choice for alternative treatment for people with sciatica. 

Chiropractic care for sciatica can come in a range of forms, including:

  • Adjustments – A chiropractor may be able to ease a herniated disc back into position to take pressure off the sciatic nerve using a spinal adjustment.
  • Spinal decompression – Chiropractors often use a technique called spinal decompression to relieve the compression of nerves along the back, including the sciatic nerve.
  • Chiropractic exercises – Aside from providing direct treatment in the form of adjustments, chiropractors can also recommend exercises that can help release sciatic nerve pressure.

Chiropractic care isn’t a traditional medical route, and wouldn’t typically be seen by medical professionals as a first-line treatment for sciatica. However, there are some studies that seem to indicate that it can be effective in limited ways, including by relieving pain.

In one study from 2014 assessing treatment options for people with leg and back pain, participants who received spinal manipulation from a chiropractor had less pain after 12 weeks than the control group. They also used less medication up to a year later.

Another study, combining the analyses of 11 different research articles, also found that chiropractic care can be an effective form of pain relief for all types of back pain, including sciatica. 

And, since chiropractic treatment is generally considered to be extremely safe, according to a review from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there aren’t any likely side effects to seeking it.


Other methods for relieving sciatica

There are a range of other non-medical methods of gaining relief from the symptoms of sciatica. These aren’t well-researched, and so don’t constitute medical treatment, but have amassed popularity regardless:

  • Build back strength – Low-impact exercises that strengthen the back or core, such as crunches, can improve the support your spine gets and reduce sciatica symptoms.
  • Stretch the hips and hamstrings – Tight muscles in the areas that sciatica affects can worsen the symptoms, so stretching muscles in your hips and hamstrings can provide temporary relief.
  • Use heat and cold treatment – Ice packs or heating pads can be another way of gaining temporary pain relief when sciatica symptoms flare up.


Finding a chiropractor to help with sciatica

While it’s always recommended that you seek medical attention before making a decision about treatment for sciatica, if you’ve decided to pursue chiropractic as a way of getting pain relief, you’ll need to find a chiropractor.

You can search options near you with My Health Assistant, find a professional who suits you, and book directly through our platform.