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Patient Handout: Effecitve Chiropractic Care for Sciatica

Introduction to Effective Chiropractic Care for Sciatica.  This information will help you understand your choices, making you a more informed patient on the benefits of chiropractic care.  It is our mission to provide you with the most reliable and trustworthy source of Chiropractic Health Information.

Key Points in your Decision about choosing Chiropractic Care?Chiropractic is a non-invasive, drug-free, results-oriented form of treatment that exposes the patient to less risk than medical approaches that traditionally favor medications and surgery

ü       Does your condition have a proper diagnosis?

ü       Does your condition have no known cause or cure?

ü       Is your condition acute or chronic?

ü       Does your condition adversely affect your functional status?

ü       Have you been taking medications for your conditions?

ü       Does your medications have any side effects?

ü       Is surgery an option?

ü       Have you ever tried any form of Complementary or Alternative Medicine in the relief of your symptoms?








These are important questions in which a Chiropractor is fully trained to help you answer.   Chiropractors are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of disease with particular emphasis on neuromusculoskeletal conditions.  If necessary, Chiropractors will refer out for most appropriate tests or referral to medical specialist in order for you to receive the best care possible.








When deciding about chiropractic care, consider the following:

q       Emphasis on patient recuperative abilities rather than drugs or surgery

q       The structure and condition of the body influences how the body functions and its ability to heal itself

q       The mind-body relationship is instrumental in maintaining health and in the healing processes.

q       Recognition that dynamics exist between lifestyle, environment and health

q       Recognition of the centrality of the nervous system and its intimate relationship with the capacities of the human body

q       Balancing benefits versus risks of clinical interventions

q       Recognition of the primary importance of monitoring progress closely through appropriate diagnostic procedures

q       A patient-centered, hands-on approach focused on influencing function through structure

Is Chiropractic Care Effective Treatment for Sciatica?

Chiropractic care has been shown to be an effective treatment option for sciatica, widely recognized as a common variation of low back pain involving radiation to the back of the leg, with a lifetime incidence estimated up to 40% of the adult population.   Due to the extensive differential diagnosis of sciatic pain, ranging from most common etiologies including disc herniation and spinal stenosis to other less common etiologies including pregnancy, spinal or metastatic tumor, neuropathies, and epidural hematomas, the chiropractor, with training focused on the whole person/total-body orientation is well suited to diagnose and treat sciatica.1

In a retrospective study entitled “Biomechanics of Low-Back Flexion-Distraction Therapy,” reports demonstrated satisfaction that a specific Chiropractic technique such as the aforementioned anatomically accomplished traction while decreasing intradiscal pressure and increasing inter-vertebral foramen space.2  Stated simply,  Chiropractic treatment created vertebral motion.   Furthermore, in a follow-up randomized controlled study entitled “Flexion-Distraction vs. Medical care for Low-Back Pain,” patients were randomized either to flexion-distraction Chiropractic therapy or to the customary allopathic care, which was physical therapy.   Results showed that, even though both groups of study patients perceived significantly less pain after either intervention, the subjects randomly allocated to the flexion-distraction group had significantly greater pain relief than those allocated to the exercise program.   In addition, subjects categorized as chronic, with moderate to severe symptoms, improved most with the Chiropractic flexion-distraction protocol.

Therefore, evidence suggests Chiropractic intervention can be an effective addition to a treatment plan for sciatica.

What is the Chiropractic Treatment protocol for Sciatica?

 A Chiropractic treatment program for sciatica would typically commence with high velocity, low amplitude Chiropractic manipulation to improve facet-generated pain and restore vertebral motion.   Chiropractic flexion-distraction manipulation would then be utilized to improve disc elasticity, facet mobility, as well as erector spinae and nerve root flexibility.  A comprehensive home rehabilitation program will supplement the Chiropractic care, including ergonomic recommendations to both enhance healing and eliminate external exacerbating factors.   Lastly, in house physical therapy utilizing flexion and or extension-based protocols along with a lumbar stability program will be utilized immediately following each Chiropractic treatment.3

Personal Comments for better decision-making:

Use the following space to list any other important questions or concerns you may have about treating sciatica with Chiropractic Care.

Evidence Based Decision Making

After reading this article, you should have a better idea of how you feel about using Chiropractic Treatment for sciatica.  Informed patients make better health decisions.




1.                   Cox, James M. Low Back Pain: Mechanism, diagnosis, and treatment.            Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 6th edition, 1998.

2.                    Focus: Sciatica, Journal of American Chiropractic Association, March 2001, pp. 6-13.

3.                    Lefler, Rodney K., DC, CSCS. Sciatica: Chiropractor Viewpoint, May 1, 2001 for

Authors:                Joseph A. Rotella BS, DC, MD

 Michael R. Scoma BS, MD








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Posted On 1/31/2006