What’s the truth about whether chiropractic manipulation might cause spinal cord injury in a patient with sciatica?
Many people who suffer the pain of a disc herniation or sciatica have considered getting chiropractic treatment, but might fear that the hands-on treatment could harm their spinal cord or column.
Though sciatica can be caused by a herniated (bulging) disc, not all cases of bulging discs affect the sciatic nerve.
But the pain in the back, butt and/or leg feels the same.
Tingling and numbness may also be present.
Chiropractic Treatment of Sciatica
Can injury to the spinal cord result via the manipulation by a chiropractic physician?
“It is possible, but not a common occurrence,” says Dr. Michael Perry, MD, member of the North American Spine Society and American College of Sports Medicine.
He adds, “If the patient does have a herniated disc, chiropractors typically take X-rays and MRI scans prior to manipulations to ensure there are no problems occurring on the spine that would be a contraindication for manipulation.”
Chiropractors are trained at interpreting X-rays and MRI scans.
With that said, you should not arrange to have chiropractic treatment for your sciatica if the treating physician has not reviewed images of your condition.
There should be a discussion of the images before any manipulation begins.
Other Treatments for Sciatica
In addition to chiropractic treatment, there are other options for sciatica.
If it has been determined that the irritation is being caused by a tight piriformis muscle imposing upon the sciatic nerve, stretching exercises will be prescribed.
The patient may also opt to take the medications mentioned below.
If it’s nerve root compression, medications are one line of therapy. These include anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and tricyclic antidepressants.
Physical therapy is another conservative treatment, as are steroid injections (which last about three months).
Sciatica Stretches for the Piriformis Muscle
Dr. Perry is chief medical director and co-founder of USA Spine Care & Orthopedics, and is frequently sought out for his minimally invasive spine surgery expertise.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.