Search IconSearch

Hands-On Help: How a Chiropractor Can Provide Lower Back or Sciatica Pain Relief

Manual therapy offers relief without the unwanted side effects of medication

Man with back pain

Sciatica’s the name, “debilitating lower back pain that extends down the hip and legs” is its game.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

And you’d probably like to get some relief from the pain that has you recliner-bound.

Hear this! Sitting around is not only getting old, it’s also making your symptoms worse. So, when painkillers and hot packs can’t cut the pain, consider visiting a chiropractor.

A chiropractor? For sciatica?

Chiropractors are a great place to start when you have sciatica-like shooting pain or associated symptoms such as leg or foot tingling, numbness or weakness.

“Chiropractors are a portal of entry, meaning you don’t need a referral to see one,” says chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC. “We’re trained to work with musculoskeletal concerns, so we can help identify what’s the root cause of your symptoms.”

Chiropractic care is usually covered under most insurance plans, whether private, Medicare or Medicaid. And a visit to the chiropractor may save you a step. Chiropractors can quickly identify whether your concern needs to be elevated to the next level and if you need to pursue:

  • Referrals: A referral to a physical or occupational therapist or an acupuncturist.
  • Medications: Talking to your primary care physician about a prescription for short-term use of muscle relaxant, steroid or anti-inflammatory medicines.
  • Imaging scans: Getting an X-ray or MRI.

All hands on deck: Motion is lotion when it comes to chiropractic therapy

“People often tell me they don’t know how they hurt their back,” says Dr. Bang. “That’s usually a blaring sign that muscle weakness or tightness is to blame, which is typical given how much sitting we all do.”

Muscles are made up of thousands of small fibers, like a rope created from several small strands of string. With both overuse and underuse, the muscle fibers contract and also influence nearby fibers to contract.

What happens next? A painful “knot” of muscles, known as a trigger point, forms.

“Trigger points can ‘pinch’ the sciatic nerve, causing an intense, radiating pain down the back and legs,” says Dr. Bang. “But trigger points respond well to deep pressure that squeezes the muscle fibers and causes them to relax.”

He adds, “We also know manual therapy like massage can reduce the levels of inflammation-causing compounds near the trigger point.” (Those pro-inflammatory compounds are known as cytokines.)

Big benefits, little risk to hands-on manual therapy

In addition to saving you time, a visit to the chiropractor may also decrease your reliance on painkillers. A study by the American College of Physicians listed these as the first line of defense for lower back pain:

  • Applying heat.
  • Manipulation.
  • Massage.
  • Acupuncture.


“Anti-inflammatory pain relievers and muscle relaxants are a second course for treating pain, with narcotics and injections taking the back seat,” says Dr. Bang. “There are very few side effects to chiropractic treatment. Medications, on the flip side, aren’t free of side effects, especially after prolonged use.”

Keep sciatic pain away with strengthening and stretching exercises

Dr. Bang says most chiropractors focus on as few treatments as possible to bring relief to patients. Sciatica-like pain can usually be relieved within four visits or less. During treatment sessions, chiropractors teach basic exercises that you can do at home to stop the symptoms from returning.

“I usually recommend increased exercise or a sitting/standing desk,” says Dr. Bang. “Also, I love a foam roller for sciatic pain. It’s a miracle worker. It’s inexpensive and lasts forever — unless the dog gets hold of it.”


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

person grabbing foot with both hands
What That Pins-and-Needles Feeling Really Means

It typically happens when blood flow is blocked when a limb rests in the same position too long

man sleeping
March 10, 2021/Brain & Nervous System
How to Get Better Sleep With Sciatica Pain

Sciatica pain can keep you up — here’s how to get relief

man suffering from tension headache
November 24, 2020/Primary Care
Easing Your Tension Headaches: 7 Tips From a Chiropractor

Bad habits that lead to headaches and how to overcome them

Pregnant woman sitting with husband on couch
December 30, 2019/Pregnancy & Childbirth
How to Handle Sciatica During Your Pregnancy

Tips for getting relief from a common pain of pregnancy

Healthcare provider checking patient's knee
June 19, 2024/Chronic Pain
Arthritis Exercise: What To Try and What To Avoid

Exercising can actually improve arthritis symptoms — and low-impact exercises are best

Red-headed patient in dental chair in dentist office with healthcare provider
April 9, 2024/Chronic Pain
Why Redheads May Need More Anesthesia

If you have naturally red hair, feeling the pain may be in your DNA

physical therapist working with patient on their back
March 4, 2024/Chronic Pain
12 Ways To Treat Your Back Pain Without Surgery

From physical and biofeedback therapy to nerve ablations and blocks, there are many nonsurgical options for managing back pain

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims