Chiropractic as successful as surgery for sciatica

Although many people with sciatica have found relief through spinal decompression surgery, also called microdiscectomy, the surgery may not be necessary for all sciatica patients.New research suggests that in some cases, chiropractic treatments may be just as effective for sciatica as surgery.

A group of researchers completed a study to examine the comparative success of chiropractic and surgery for treating sciatica. The study involved 40 patients who had previously tried treating their sciatica with a variety of treatments including massage, acupuncture, and painkillers. All 40 were still experiencing pain at the beginning of the study. Half of the patients then underwent surgery, while the other half underwent chiropractic adjustments. 85% of those who underwent surgery reported significant improvements in their pain level, while 60% of those receiving chiropractic treatments reported significant improvements. The researchers observed that "patients with sciatica who had failed other medical management benefited from spinal manipulation to the same degree as if they underwent surgical intervention."

While chiropractic treatments may not be the solution for every sciatica patient, this study showed that it was effective for more than half of the patients involved. As a result, the researchers concluded that patients with sciatica should consider chiropractic adjustments before deciding to undergo surgery, which comes with higher risks than chiropractic care.

McMorland G, Suter E, Casha S, du Plessis SJ, Hurlbert RJ. Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2010; 33(8): 576-584.