Chiropractor for sciatica?: Dear All, Last... - Pain Concern

Pain Concern

31,196 members10,179 posts

Chiropractor for sciatica?


Dear All,

Last Christmas my husband strained his back and it has not got better despite ongoing physiotherapy. We don't know if he has "slipped" a disk as the doctors' view is that he should continue with physio and pain control (which has not so far been very effective).

A lot of friends have recommended that he should try a chiropractor. Has anyone got any advice? We have heard this can be risky particularly for people over 60 as the spinal manipulation has been known to cause never damage in uncommon (but not vanishingly rare) cases. More damage being the last thing he needs at an age when we don't heal up well ...

He's had quite a lot of osteopathy when he was younger, but never seen an actual chiropractor. Over the years, physio core exercises have been the most effective help, but this was before he actually injured himself - and now we read that core exercises can make things worse in some cases by making muscles over-react!

Gratefull for any insight anyone can give.

12 Replies

Both Osteopaths and chiropractors are experts in dealing with backs. I have had treatment by an good osteopath who temporary provided relief. I have continual treatment by a McTimony chiropractor on the NHS for a condition I have. The osteopathic treatment was very vigorous and scary compared to the chiropractic treatment I recieve now. What you relying on when receiving treatment is how sensitive is the practitioner's hands and how skilled are the hand movements. There is no way that I know of that you can test for this. You have to rely that they are ensuring that they are keeping on developing their hand skills.

You husband needs an MRI scan to check for any possibility of a problem. Muscles work by contracting. Their are nerve inputs which tell a muscle to contract. The nerve cannot tell a muscle to uncontract. The muscle relies on other muscles to lengthen it out again. Hence when their is reduced movement of a living human body their is likihood of muscles getting over contracted and remaining in that state. Over contracted muscles have reduced blood supply and as a result are starved of mutrient and lack good removal of waste products.

The longer a muscle is the stronger it is. Muscle groups consist of bundles of muscle fibres. Strength is dependant on more muscle fibres doing an action. Unfortunately as we get older the brain can make errors in muscle control. You can over-contract a muscle. A scenario takes place where you need a bit of strength. You contract a muscle you need more strength and you contract the muscle more. The result is that the muscle gets weaker and you end up in a positive feedback loop which over contracts a muscle and leaves it over contracted.

Physios tend to be (unless you have a good one) one size fits all. What is good for someone in their twenties is not necessarily good for someone in their late 50s and older. Over contracted muscles need to be manually stretched. Pain killer or anti inflammatories cannot stretch out over contracted muscle.

You need to network with people to find out a good chiropractor. You need a second opinion. It is worth taking up yoga to learn how to stretch out over contracted muscle. You may be in a situation where you need to lose strength. You need the advice of an experienced hands on practitioner in regard to this matter. A lot of physios tend to forget how muscles are actually designed to work.

Hope I have been helpful.

Emmiey in reply to johnsmith

HI, I suffer from chronic pain that has left me bedbound. Opioids don’t help. How did you manage to get chiropractor on the NHS? What other treatments do they offer on the NHS for pain relief. I asked my GP about chiropractor, acupuncture and Botox and they were all reluctant to offer help in that way. I can’t afford to do it privately. Not really had any treatments other than pills and few sessions on Physio that I was already doing anyway. I tried CBD and that didn’t work either. Would appreciate your reply. Thanks

johnsmith in reply to Emmiey

I got my treatment on the basis of an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) written in 1993 saying that chiropractic was better than physiotherapy. I persuaded the local health board with the help of my GP that chiropractic would not cure my problem, but would help me manage it. I did biophysics as part of my degree and I had the educational resources to persuade the local health board at the time (1993).

Look at:

The conclusion in the last reference is


There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation and mobilization are likely to reduce pain and improve function for patients with chronic low back pain; manipulation appears to produce a larger effect than mobilization. Both therapies appear safe. Multimodal programs may be a promising option."

These are resources and evidence to take to the GP. NHS England funds GP surgeries. If you get no joy from the GP contact NHS England with grounds for complaint.

Hope this helps

Jenles in reply to johnsmith

I saw a chiropractor whilst awaiting an appointment with a spinal specialist. This took longer than it should because a GP refused to take me seriously. She manipulated my spine, told me to do several exercises and insisted that I could not have a ‘slipped disc.’ When I finally had an MRI it showed that I had 2 severely prolapsed discs. It was so serious they wanted to admit me then and there. Some of the exercises and treatment she had given me wer, to put it kindly, counterproductive.

I would never recommend a chiropractor after this although she had in fact been recommend to me and I realise that there are good, bad and indifferent practitioners in every field.

I wrote to her and explained that I do infact have 2 prolapsed discs because I didn’t want anyone else to go through this. I had to have a major operation on my spine as by now I was bent sideways in a hook shape and my body has never fully straightened since.

So, no, personality I would never go to an alternative practitioner now.

FicusElastica in reply to Jenles

Thank you for your experience, this is just the kind of downside that we have heard can happen with some chiropractors and osteopaths. GPs are no better. They can take the view that they "know" what is and is not the problem, and getting a genuine test is difficult. We are going to try and tread carefully!

Hi my mother had sciatica at 67 and she went to a chiropractor. it took a number of sessions before he finally managed to free the sciatic nerve and she recovered from that day on.

Chiropractors and osteopaths, as johsmith says, are experts in dealing with back problems. Make sure he goes to a suitably qualified one and I can't see him having any problems. x

@johnsmith and hypercat54, thank you very much for those insights. The physios have helped in the past, but not with this situation, and I've become sceptical that we can rely on them any more.

On top of that he's been put on gabapentine for the pain as nothing else he's tried so far, works. Apparently any side effects will (should) ease off, but at the moment it's making him sleepy, and we are freelances, so that is making things worse.

The indications: we need to take independent action. Thank you for your suggestions.

Before you go for any treatment your husband really needs to push for an MRI. It’s important to know what’s causing the pain.

I went to an osteopath (a very good one) and found treatment did help but he said go to gp and get a scan. I did and now know it’s spondylitis and I have osteophytes and bulging discs at c5/6 and 7 and the pain and numbness in my left leg is L4 and 5. This helped the physio know what we’re working with.

Chiropractic and osteopathic treatment can be of help as can physio but it’s best to know what the problem is.

Hope this helps and your husband gets some relief.

Hi all I have struggled with chronic back pain for many years, I had an accident as a child then worked as a care assistant for many years. My biggest problem is none of the doctors I have seen will put me forward for either an MRI scan or x-ray. Despite all my pleas each time I ask they tell me I cant have one because as I am 44 yrs old it would show up other problems with back that aren't causing me any pain! And I could only have a scan if it would be possible to operate to put it right (which no ones knows as I'm not allowed a scan)! I am so frustrated even just a diagnoses would help so I had a name for what is wrong, as chronic back pain just doesn't cover it. What im trying to say is even if you ask for an MRI your not necessarily going to get one! I hope your hubby has more luck with that than I xx

My Mother who has a, Long Term, problem with her back often uses a Chiropractor. The main 'Thing' is to find one who will TALK to you first. (S)He will then need to do a Full Assessment (If your Doctor/Consultant) has been 'reluctant', to do an MRI, just Mention it to the Chiro.....Suddenly he's got one??) Steer Clear, of those, who Promise Too Much in two visits! What I'm saying is that Two, or even three, sessions of Talking/Assessing, with the right person, will achieve far more than Eight Sessions of just being 'Pulled About'. As regards the State, of your Back/Pelvis/Spinal Column/thighs et al, this should NOT prevent an MRI taking place. That's rather like saying 'You can't have milk, so therefore you can't use the entire Supermarket!

I would go back, to your Doctors/Consultants, and 'Bark Loudly', something that probably Isn't in your nature- I fully understand that. However, especially as someone who doesn't 'Make a Fuss', you need to do it! You will be surprised, I'm quite sure, of that. (It's the silly B....ds, that complain 'all the f..king time, that get Everyone's Goat. NOT YOU!)

I'm sorry, to hear, that you are in such pain Ficus, I know that we all wish you well.

Please, will you, let know how you 'get on'.

Kindest Wishes, from us all.


Hi thank you - we are taking what people said on board ... he's made an appointment with a Chiropractor clinic (private) and will take it from there. If necessary and advised we'll look for somewhere to have a scan privately (having been told quite a while ago to be wary as a scan without a diagnosis or report is just another scan and if you ask for your GP to get an NHS diagnosis you can be right back where you started ... )

My husband did get good treatment from the NHS physios for his chronic back pain some years ago (he has a small scoliosis developed as a teenager, which gives him a weak point right in the small of his back) with core strength exercises. I would praise that. But it's done no good at all with the new trouble, which we know was caused by a strain back in December 2017.

No I don't think he'll get a scan from his GP, unless maybe the private chiropractor recommends one, sometimes they will listen to that. Even then it would probably mean a long wait :-(

@boogiebeebs, have you been through the "see a physio and get core exercises" route? As I said, it did help him for a long time until he got a new injury in his 60s. He had had a lifetime of osteopathy before that, and the excercises seemed to help more than anything (to my surprise).

I broke my back when I was 16, and if it wasn’t for my chiropractor I would always be in loads of pain. I trust my chiropractor and have brought friends of mine to see him. Definitely worth trying.

You may also like...