Share on Pinterest
miniseries/Getty Images

Sciatica is a common condition that affects up to 40 percent of people. Most cases of mild sciatica resolve on their own. However, when sciatica doesn’t resolve on its own, it can lead to chronic pain and muscle weakness.

Medical treatment options generally include:

  • lifestyle adjustments
  • pain medications
  • physical therapy
  • surgery, in severe cases

Some people with sciatica seek treatment outside traditional medical care.

Chiropractic care is a popular natural treatment for sciatica. It can relieve pain without medication and is generally considered a safe treatment option.

Learn more about what the science says about chiropractic care for sciatica, plus other tips to cope with sciatic pain.

Sciatica is a pain that’s triggered when your sciatic nerve becomes pinched.

Your sciatic nerve travels from your lower back, past your hips, and down each leg. Sciatica pain can be found anywhere along this path and is often felt through the entire length.

Most people only experience sciatica on one side of their body. The pain can be mild or severe. The pain can be felt as an electric shock or as a deep aching pain. It can also cause your affected leg and foot to feel numb or weak.

This most common cause of sciatica a herniated disk in your spine that presses on the sciatic nerve. It can also occur when a bone spur presses on the nerve or when your spine is narrowed and puts pressure on the nerve.

Sciatica often resolves on its own. When it doesn’t, it’s a good idea to see a medical provider.

Left untreated, some cases of sciatica can lead to permanent damage to your sciatica nerve. This could cause you to lose feeling in your affected leg or even lose control of your bowel and bladder.

Chiropractic care centers around spinal manipulation and other manual therapies to help relieve pain and treat conditions.

In the United States, all chiropractors are required earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree before they can practice. They also need to earn licensure in the state where they work.

Chiropractic care is considered a holistic healthcare method. This means that it focuses on care for your whole body and not just the specific area of your pain.

A chiropractor will ask you about your pain as well as your health history at your first appointment. This helps them develop a specialized treatment plan for you.

You might also have X-rays taken, so the chiropractor can understand what’s causing your pain. For example, an X-ray might show that your spine is narrowed and pinching your sciatic nerve.

Treatment involves stretching and applying controlled pressure to your joints. The chiropractor might recommend specific exercises for you to do at home to help with your pain. Some may also provide nutrition and wellness education that can help relieve your symptoms.

You’ll generally need to see a chiropractor multiple times before you begin to get relief from sciatica.

People sometimes seek chiropractic care for sciatica and other painful conditions. This is because chiropractic care may be a more appealing option for long-term pain management than taking medication every day.

You also may have already tried numerous traditional solutions to pain management, such as medication and physical therapy, without finding relief.

Chiropractic care is often easy to find. You don’t need a medical referral to see a chiropractor, and many of these practices can see patients very quickly. Plus, chiropractic care is increasingly covered by health insurance plans.

However, chiropractic care remains controversial.

Until very recently, no studies demonstrated that chiropractic care was safe or effective. A couple of studies have now looked into the effectiveness of chiropractic care for sciatica, but these have important limitations. Studies have only been done using small sample sizes, and even then, results varied.

A 2015 systematic review of multiple studies does seem to suggest that chiropractic care provides relief various types of back pain, including sciatica. In fact, back pain is one of the most studied and recommended uses of chiropractic care.

Additionally, the National Institutes of Health has pointed to research showing that chiropractic care is generally safe for most people. For many, this information is enough to make chiropractic care a compelling option, especially when compared to long-term pain medication use.

If you’re not sure about chiropractic care but want to treat your sciatic naturally, you have options. You can help ease your sciatica pain at home in several ways.

Some suggestions for natural relief include:

  • Take breaks during your workday. Sitting in the same position for long hours can aggravate sciatica. Try taking a break and changing sitting positions throughout your day. You may find you’re in less pain by the end of the day.
  • Build back strength. You can do low impact exercises, such as crunches, to help strengthen the muscles in your back and core. Strengthening these muscles will improve spinal support, which can reduce your sciatica symptoms. To avoid the risk of making your pain worse, take it slow and do these exercises carefully.
  • Stretch your hip and hamstring muscles. Tight muscles in your hips and hamstrings put pressure on your lower back. Stretching these muscles helps many people see significant improvement in their sciatica pain.
  • Use ice packs. Ice packs can help relieve the pain of sciatica. You can use an ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Try heat. Hot packs, heating pads, or even warm water in the shower may help reduce your pain.
  • Take up yoga. Yoga can help improve your strength, posture, and flexibility and also provide pain relief. Plus, you’ll get the great benefits of exercise and relaxation that come with yoga.
  • Get a massage, if possible. A massage can loosen tight muscles and provide significant pain relief.
  • Consider acupuncture. For some people, acupuncture can be an effective method of controlling pain.

A chiropractor might be able to help relieve sciatica pain. Using spinal manipulation techniques and other natural practices, chiropractors can help relieve the pressure on your sciatic nerve.

There is limited evidence to support chiropractic for sciatica, but many people report finding relief after visiting a chiropractor. Chiropractic care is generally considered safe, and there are very few risks to trying this treatment method.

It’s also important to know when to seek medical evaluation and care for your sciatica symptoms. If not treated, long-term pressure on the sciatic nerve can cause serious problems like leg numbness and incontinence.