Benefits of Chiropractic Treatment of Low Back Pain and Sciatica Versus Drug Therapy and Surgery


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This article was provided by Dr. Gregory King DC, a chiropractor at BackSmart Health Chiropractic in Cumming, GA. If you’d like to learn more please visit

Introduction to Low Back Pain and Sciatica

The anatomy of the sacral region of the human body would describe a pair of nerves which stem from the sacral plexus of the lower back and extend downward through the muscles in the buttocks to the rear of the knees. This nerve which is the largest nerve in the body is responsible for stimulating the pelvis area and is known as the Sciatic Nerve. At the knee junction, the sciatic nerve splits into other nerve branches that go into the pelvis and to the tarsals.

Low back pain is severe pain which arises from the lower spinal joints, hip or back of the thigh and travels to the legs. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), it is a particularly common physical disability that is popular among 60-70% of working or retired adults. Spinal pathology alludes causes of low back pain to pancreatic carcinoma, cancer, spinal stenosis, Paget’s disease of bones or inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.

Sciatica on the other hand (also called sciatic neuralgia or neuropathy) is pain and softness experienced at specific nodes of the sciatic nerve. The causes of low back pain and sciatica are generic and can stem from a prolapsed vertebral disc. Conditions of sciatica vary depending on the intensity of the pain experienced and periods between each wave of pain. Numbness and tingling sensations, together with a burning feeling in the joints are major symptoms of sciatica. An erroneous notion about sciatica is that it is a disorder, but in the real sense, sciatic neuralgia is only a symptom of a disorder resulting from the squeezing of the sciatic nerve. This compression can be as a result of disorders such as bulging or herniated spinal discs, swollen tumors, or even non-spinal conditions such constipation, diabetes or pregnancy and childbirth. If untreated, extensive neuralgia may trigger an onset of monoplegia (paralysis of a muscle area) and insomnia.

Diagnosis of Low Back Pain

Low back pain can be diagnosed as acute or chronic depending on the medical records and history of the patient. While examining the patient, a physician would inquire about the onset and intensity of the pain, physical limitations and how long it takes for an episode to subside. Imaging tests may be employed to determine if the root cause of the pain is idiopathic. Such imaging tests could include X-rays, CT scans or Myelograms.

Treatment Options Available

While considering the various options for treating lower back pain or sciatica, it is important to know the benefits of each option and what risks the patient stands, if any. For example, placing a patient on drug therapy and injections for a pain whose root cause is malignant may lead to a permanent condition of paralysis.

The forms of treatment available include:

  • Chiropractic Treatment
  • Drug therapy and Surgery
  • Physical Therapy
  • Alternative treatments such as biofeedback and acupuncture.

Chiropractic Treatment

Statistics have revealed that among the 22 million Americans who hire chiropractors annually, 7.7 million have back pain problems. A chiropractor specializes in the use of therapies and other forms of spinal manipulation for the relief of pains and relaxation of the body. Chiropractors believe that correct placement of the musculoskeletal structure in the body can influence the body to healing itself without further medication.

Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care

Generally, chiropractic technique is considered a safe practice and an effective treatment for back pain and sciatic nerve pains. Studies have revealed that chiropractic treatment may also be advantageous in treating neck aches and joint pains. More so, other conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis are said to respond well to the rhythmic pressure used by chiropractors. Treatment of the chiropractic form should be based on a proper diagnosis of the pain (whether stemming from the sciatic nerve or a prolapsed disc).

Drug Therapy and Surgery

For treatable low back pain and sciatica, doctors would give drug prescriptions or spinal injections as treatment. The intensity of the pain experienced would determine what kind of medication is prescribed. Depending on the options that work best for a patient, medication can range from NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin for pain management to epidural steroidal injection such as prednisone that helps reduce inflammation to antidepressants for clinical cases of low back pain.

Surgical approach as a treatment form for sciatica offers straightaway remedy for pain as it is a more radical approach. This should be considered personally by the patient as non-surgical treatment options have presented equally effective outcomes, although patient may have to live with the condition for the rest of their lives. Occasions where surgical procedures are required are few and only advised if pain persists despite conservative treatment. For example, a swollen vertebral disc that impinges on the nerve may have to be operated upon in order to correct the problem. However, studies of the benefits of surgical procedures over non-surgical treatment are fairly lucid and partially convincing.

Benefits and Risks of Drug Therapy

The major aim of using drug therapy to treat low back pain or sciatica is pain relief and not total treatment. The medications do not completely address the root cause of the pain but subdue the symptoms to manageable extents such that the patient might be able to perform other physical activities.

In the eventuality that every other form of therapy fails, or upon patient decision, surgery may be considered. Healing from a surgical procedure could take up to 6 months and might lead to loss of joint flexibility. However, surgical procedures are not always successful and there is not much proof about which procedures work best.


Most forms of low back pain and sciatica can be placated by any of the two forms of treatments discussed. When necessary, chiropractors can refer patients to see doctors if they consider the issue of the pain as more tenable to the surgical procedure than adjustments. Likewise, doctors can also recommend a chiropractor to a patient depending on the personal choices of the patient.

For more information:
Backsmart Health Chiropractic
Dr. Gregory King, D.C.
5610 Bethelview Rd. #300A
Cumming GA 30040