Spinal manipulation proves equally beneficial as surgery in sciatica treatment


In a recent study, “Manipulation or microdisketomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study,” published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, researchers concluded that spinal manipulation was just as effective as microdiskectomy for patients struggling with sciatica secondary to lumbar disk herniation. The patient population studied included people experiencing chronic sciatica (symptoms greater than six months) that had failed traditional, medical management. Overall, 60% of patients who received spinal manipulation benefited to the same degree as those who underwent surgery.

“To our knowledge, this is the first, randomised trial that directly compared spinal manipulation, which in this study was delivered by a doctor of chiropractic, and back surgery, two popular treatment choices for this prevalent health condition,” said Gordon McMorland, co-author of the paper. “Sciatica is a serious spinal condition that causes pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs. Many times when symptoms become debilitating and without further help, surgery is prescribed to alleviate discomfort. But surgery is not without financial and physical drawbacks.”

“After a year, no significant complications were seen in either treatment group, and the 60% patients who benefitted from spinal manipulation improved to the same degree as their surgical counterparts, said McMorland. “The 40% of patients who were not helped by manipulation did receive subsequent surgical intervention. These patients benefitted to the same degree as those that underwent surgery initially, suggesting there was no detrimental effect caused by delaying their surgical treatment.”

“Our research supports spinal manipulation performed by a doctor of chiropractic is a valuable and safe treatment option for those experiencing symptomatic lumbar disk herniation, failing traditional medical management. These individuals should consider spinal manipulation as a primary treatment, followed by surgery if unsuccessful.”


Co-authors of the study are neurosurgeons Steve Casha, Stephan J du Plessis, and R John Hubert.