Disc herniations in the lower back are a common cause of sciatica, or severe leg pain. This pain is often debilitating and can be associated with sensory deficits and weakness. Chiropractors treat patients with these symptoms and, thankfully, we generally see excellent results with conservative management. A recent study confirmed just how good non-surgical treatment can be. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Texas looked at the outcomes of over 250,000 patients with lumbar disc herniations. They found that 97% were successfully treated without surgery. Only 3% eventually had to go “under the knife”. Being a male and having taken opioid medication for pain seemed to have increased the risk for needing surgery. It is important to note that there are situations where surgical intervention becomes necessary. This includes progressive weakness in the lower limbs and changes with bowel or bladder control. But, as the numbers indicate, this is rare. Bottom line: a diagnosis of disc herniation does mean an automatic trip to the OR. Conservative management though spinal adjustments, exercise and or spinal decompression therapy will usually provide much-needed relief.
Lilly, D. T., Davison, M. A., Eldridge, C. M., Singh, R., Montgomery, E. Y., Bagley, C., & Adogwa, O. (2020). An Assessment of Nonoperative Management Strategies in a Herniated Lumbar Disc Population: Successes Versus Failures. Global Spine Journal. https://doi.org/10.1177/2192568220936217