Sciatica is one of the most common forms of lower back pain. It’s usually diagnosed as a sharp pain in your lower back that travels down your glutes and the back of your leg. This happens because your sciatic nerve is compressed, leading to irritation and discomfort. There are many reasons you may have sciatica, and there are just as many proposed treatments for it. As such, the biggest question we face at The Osteopathic & Physio Clinic is this: is an osteopath or a chiropractor better for sciatica?

We’ve put together a guide to go over both practices and to help you make a decision on which treatment is best for you.  

Osteopathy vs Chiropractic

You will notice some similarities between osteopathy and chiropractic care. Most notably, both are healthcare disciplines that focus on the musculoskeletal system.

However, there are some significant differences that set the two apart. The best way to summarise them would be as follows:

  • Osteopathy is a holistic approach to health, using evidence-based practices to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal injuries and trauma. It doesn’t just focus on one element of the body or aim to target specific symptoms. Instead, osteopathy looks at the body as a whole and will find the root cause of a problem, providing numerous treatments to reach the end goal. This can include massage, spinal corrections, stretching and various manipulations.
  • Chiropractic focuses more intently on specific symptoms and deals directly with the spine and joints. It will typically involve spinal adjustments to realign joints and move the spine into proper alignment. There is less of a total body approach from the chiropractic side of things.

Is Osteopath or a Chiropractor Better For Sciatica?

In terms of treating sciatic pain, an osteopath is the more effective method.

Why? Because sciatica can be caused by a whole load of issues that may not even stem from your lower back. The nerve may be compressed because of poor posture, which might begin with your neck and lead to multiple changes down your body, affecting the lower back and sciatic nerve.

An osteopath will look at your entire body and diagnose treatments to correct the root cause of your sciatica. They won’t just work on this specific area; they’ll provide adjustments, massages and prescribe corrective exercises for other parts of the body to ensure your sciatica fades and doesn’t flare up again.

Conversely, chiropractic treatments may only offer short-term relief. Spinal adjustments can be made to ease sciatica, but the cause of it isn’t addressed. This means it’s likely to keep coming back again and again.

In summary, osteopathy directly treats your sciatica and will provide immediate pain relief while also looking at the rest of your body. As a result, you will see long-term benefits and a greater reduction in pain during daily activities.

How Can I Help My Sciatica?

Sciatica is one of those problems that can appear out of nowhere but disappear just as quickly. If you’re suffering from lower back pain that radiates down your leg, there’s a high chance the sciatic nerve is involved.

We suggest waiting for a few days to see if the pain dissipates. During this time you can consider the following self-treatments:

  • Remain physically active – If you don’t move, the sciatic nerve could stay trapped and become more aggravated
  • Perform sciatic nerve stretches – You can stretch your lower back, glutes and hamstring to lengthen the muscles around your sciatic nerve and help release it. Some good stretches include a seated hamstring stretch, a figure four stretch for your glutes and the child’s pose stretch for your lower back.
  • Hot & cold therapy – Applying a heat pack or taking a hot bath can encourage blood flow to your lower back and help the natural healing process. It will also help with stiffness in the area and can loosen things up. If your pain is really bad and your back feels inflamed, an ice pack on the area can soothe the symptoms too.

Try these tips at home and manage the pain over the next few days. If a week passes and you’re still getting spasms of sciatic pain, it’s time to see an osteopath. Remember, osteopathy is the best way to treat this lower back condition and to see long-term results! If you’re experiencing back pain, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and our expert team will be happy to help