Can A Chiropractor Make Sciatica Worse?
Statistical data shows that appropriately 10-40% of the general population seek different treatments for sciatica pain during their life. Low back pain and sciatica are common reasons to seek chiropractic care. This treatment is often accompanied by a fear that it may cause lumbar disc herniation (LDH) and make lower back conditions worse.
Chiropractors often encounter patients suffering from significant pain due to herniated discs in the clinic. In their case, the delay was caused by being nervous (apprehensive) that the chiropractor would hurt them or make their condition worse. Perhaps they heard it was going to crack their back. So, let’s find out – in light of clinical research – whether chiropractic care is safe for low back pain and sciatica in specific.
Is Chiropractic Safe?
The European Spine Journal published a study that concluded chiropractic treatment for back pain and sciatica caused by bulging or herniated lumbar discs was not risky. Study authors investigated whether chiropractic treatment of back pain or sciatica was associated with an increased risk of herniated discs requiring surgery. Patients who saw their family doctor for back pain were compared to those who saw a chiropractor. The assumption was that chiropractic treatment has more side effects and is less safe for those with sciatica versus those who saw their family physician.
From April 2004 to December 2014, the authors investigated all adults who visited an emergency department with acute LDH that required early surgical intervention. The study involved a substantial patient population. In terms of person-years (number of people x age), there were over 100 million people. Those who had seen a chiropractor before the emergency room visit were compared to those who had not. Those who had already seen their primary care provider (e.g., family doctor) before visiting the ER were also compared.
What were the results?
195 cases of acute LDH with early surgery (within 8 weeks) were identified in a population of more than 100 million people. According to their research, the risk for acute LDH with surgery performed early after a chiropractic visit was not higher than the risk for surgery performed early after a visit to a physician.
What does this mean?
A bulging or herniated disc can cause back pain and may develop into sciatica (pain coursing down the leg). Back pain is often treated by a chiropractor, a family doctor (or both). Occasionally, some patients with herniated discs become progressively worse, requiring them to visit the emergency department and undergo surgery.
This study concluded that chiropractic treatment did not cause the progression of symptoms any more than it could have been caused by visiting a family doctor. They added that chiropractic care for sciatica or any other musculoskeletal condition is as safe as getting yourself treated by a family physician.
Feel free to contact us if you would like to know whether a chiropractor is safe for you and able to help you with back pain and/or sciatica. We are happy to evaluate your condition and advise you on the appropriate treatment.