Is Sciatica ruining your life?

Is Sciatica ruining your life?

In today’s fast paced, can’t stop, keep going world; pain can be something we just don’t have time for. Sciatica is one of those types of pains.   1 in 50 people will experience sciatica in their life. For those of you whom have experienced it, you know all too well that it can drastically decrease the quality of life. This stinging/electrical pain that can start in the low back radiate down the buttocks into the leg/foot makes normal activities difficult to perform. What’s the solution? Most would say instant relief, right? This would obviously suggest surgical intervention.

I recently wrote an article stating that more than 500,000 Americans undergo back surgery every year. Less than 5% of them, according to John Hopkins Medicine were actually good candidates for that surgery.   As I just mentioned we don’t have time for this pain in a fast paced world.   Despite this there are a growing number of physicians that are recommending a conservative treatment option before undergoing the knife. Unfortunately there are often times that the patient opts for surgery just before that moment of relief.

According to a large amount of research both surgery and conservative treatments are equally effective2.   The only variation in objective effectiveness was length of time for relief. It would be quite easy to deduce that the surgery would bring about relief from pain the quickest, but is it the safest? In these studies they compared early surgery with conservative care. Conservative care could include: chiropractic, stretching, exercise, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and postural correction, or a combination.

It was clearly demonstrated that the surgery group received relief of pain the quickest. There was a relief rate of 6 – 12 weeks after surgery3. The conservative care took longer with an average of 6 – 9 months for recovery.   The point I would like to draw the attention to is that at the 1 year follow up both groups reported having the same amount of relief1. This would propose that conservative treatments have the exact same level of relief as surgery.

My next question would then be is the risk of “failed back surgery syndrome” worth a few months of early relief?   To some it may very well be, as we discussed at the beginning sciatica pain can be life changing and not in a good way. However, the risk isn’t minimal. In my article: Back Surgery: This big business may be destroying your spine, it outlines the reality of back surgery. The research shows that a large portion of surgeries such as, Microdiscectomy, and Lumbar laminectomy end up with the same level of pain as before the surgery or worse. These are the two most common forms of surgery for sciatica4. It would be wise to consider the option of conservative treatment for sciatica before selecting invasive surgery.

There is a light at the end of this sciatic filled tunnel.   95% of those who chose conservative treatments did have relief from the pain2.   It is important to recognize the healing process of the human body. Don’t allow the busy, face paced world to push you into the “quick” (but far more risky) option.

For those of you reading this without any sciatica issues. You are fortunate. Those experiencing it would recommend you take proactive steps to ensure it remains that way. Maintaining proper posture and alignment would be the best first step. To those who are suffering now from this electrifyingly terrible pain. Seek out a licensed and qualified conservative care specialist. Find out their recommendations and get started on the road to recovery.

To find out if you are developing postural distortion patterns get a Posture Diagnosis Online at the To contact Doctor Wade for more information on how your posture may be causing your health problems, how to stay healthy through proper posture, or for more ways to improve your posture email us at: [email protected].

Written By:
Dr. Mark Wade DC, DrPH, CPE, CPEP
Certified Posture Expert
Doctor of Chiropractic
Doctor of Public Health
Founder of the American Posture Institute


  1. The Maine Lumbar Spine Study, Part II: 1-Year Outcomes of Surgical and Nonsurgical Management of Sciatica 1 August 1996 – Volume 21 – Issue 15 – pp 1777-1786. Atlas, Steven J. MD, MPH*†; Deyo, Richard A. MD, MPH‡§; Keller, Robert B. MD; Chapin, Alice M. BA; Patrick, Donald L. PhD, MSPH§; Long, John M. MD#; Singer, Daniel E. MD
  1. Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica. Wilco C. Peul, M.D., Hans C. van Houwelingen, Ph.D., Wilbert B. van den Hout, Ph.D., Ronald Brand, Ph.D., Just A.H. Eekhof, M.D., Ph.D., Joseph T.J. Tans, M.D., Ph.D., Ralph T.W.M. Thomeer, M.D., Ph.D., and Bart W. Koes, Ph.D. for the Leiden–The Hague Spine Intervention Prognostic Study Group. N Engl J Med 2007; 356:2245-2256May 31, 2007DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa064039
  1. Surgery versus conservative management of sciatica due to a lumbar herniated disc: a systematic review. European Spine Journal. April 2011, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 513-522. Wilco C. H. Jacobs, Maurits van Tulder, Mark Arts, Sidney M. Rubinstein, Marienke van Middelkoop, Raymond Ostelo, Arianne Verhagen, Bart Koes, Wilco C. Peul
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