Vol 15 Issue 46
Sciatica – a group of symptoms that include pain, numbness and/or weakness in the lower back, buttocks, hip and down one leg – is a common condition. If the condition does not easily resolve with medical treatment, the next option is usually surgery. But a new study shows that Chiropractic is as effective as surgery, without the risks.
Sciatica is generally thought to be caused by a herniated or slipped disk between the vertebra in the lower back: The disk cracks and pushes some of the material out of place, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve root.
Over 250,000 surgeries are performed every year to address sciatica. The surgery is called micro discectomy – the surgeon removes the protruding disk material, which takes the pressure off the nerve. Risks and complications, in addition to those for any surgery, can include nerve root damage, bowel or bladder incontinence, bleeding and infection. For roughly one in five patients who receive the surgery, the condition recurs.
Some surgeons opt for spinal fusion to prevent recurrence. Spinal fusion also has the same risks and complications as a micro discectomy, and more. In this surgery, bone is grafted onto adjacent vertebra to make the area immobile. However, if more than two vertebra are fused, it is unlikely to stop the pain: the fusion stops so much of the normal motion that the other joints are severely stressed trying to compensate. So, not only is the patient still in pain, he is also likely to have further problems.
These operations are also expensive. A micro discectomy costs about $25,000. The cost of a spinal fusion varies depending on where the bone graft comes from, how many vertebra are to be fused, and so on. But you can pretty much count on at least $100,000.
The good news is that the new study comparing the results of chiropractic vs. surgery found that Chiropractic, in the majority of cases, is just as effective as surgery.
Participants in the study, all candidates for spinal surgery, received either the surgery or a series of 21 Chiropractic treatments over a period of a year. At the end of the year, 60 percent of the Chiropractic treatment group’s sciatica had improved as well as those who had had surgery.
The study’s authors concluded that “Chiropractic care should be considered as a first line of care for herniated lumbar discs that cause sciatica.”