I'll represent the chiropractors on this one and hopefully can help you understand the methods and science between treatment of such a condition. I'm sure an Osteopath will be able to assist in outlining their methods and science as well.
Chiropractors are known as non surgical spine specialists, so I can see why your question has been directed at us. Currently, there is an increase in the body of evidence in support of the techniques chiropractors use to assist the body in recovering from such an injury. Chiropractors use a variety of techniques and most chiropractors will utilise more than one to assist an individuals recovery. This ranges from adjustments such as spinal mannipulative technique, activator methods, sacro occipital technique to movement based and soft tissue therapies sich as myofascial release techniques, post isometric relaxation stretching etc.
Most of the current research is based around spinal manipulative technique as it has been the most prominent used by the profession.
Below is a few studies that you may want to look further into. Also to note, in the larger class of spinal pain, multiple studies and guidlines have been adopted by worldwide bodies that recommend a trial of conservative care (chiropractic treatment) before surgical care as a standard. These have been published in such areas such as the Cochrane review, Americal College of physicians and Americal Pain Society Guidelines. More recently this has also been adopted at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center after a landmark study. More information can be found here.
Manipulation or Microdiskectomy for Sciatica?
A Prospective Randomized Clinical Study
J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010 (Oct); 33 (8): 576–584
One hundred twenty patients presenting through elective referral by primary care physicians to neurosurgical spine surgeons were consecutively screened for symptoms of unilateral lumbar radiculopathy secondary to LDH (lumbar disc herniation/prolapse) at L3-4, L4-5, or L5-S1. Forty consecutive consenting patients who met inclusion criteria (patients must have failed at least 3 months of nonoperative management including treatment with analgesics, lifestyle modification, physiotherapy, massage therapy, and/or acupuncture) were randomized to either surgical microdiskectomy or standardized chiropractic spinal manipulation. Crossover to the alternate treatment was allowed after 3 months. Sixty percent of patients with sciatica who had failed other medical management benefited from spinal manipulation to the same degree as if they underwent surgical intervention. Of 40% left unsatisfied, subsequent surgical intervention confers excellent outcome. Patients with symptomatic LDH failing medical management should consider spinal manipulation followed by surgery if warranted.
Cost and Use of Conservative Management of
Lumbar Disc Herniation Before Surgical Discectomy
Spine J. 2010 (Jun); 10 (6): 463–468
Lumbar discectomy is one of the most common spine surgical procedures. The average charge for discectomy procedure was $7,841. Although a large number of patients will ultimately require surgical intervention, given that many patients will improve with nonoperative therapy, a trial of conservative management is appropriate. This study reviewed the costs associated with various conservative measures.
Safety of Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Lumbar Disk Herniations:
A Systematic Review and Risk Assessment
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2004 (Mar); 27 (3): 197–210
Prospective/retrospective studies and review papers were graded according to quality, and results and conclusions were tabulated. From the data published, an estimate of the risk of spinal manipulation causing a clinically worsened disk herniation or cauda equina syndrome (CES) in patients presenting with LDH was calculated. This was compared with estimates of the safety of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and surgery in the treatment of LDH. An estimate of the risk of spinal manipulation causing a clinically worsened disk herniation or CES in a patient presenting with LDH is calculated from published data to be less than 1 in 3.7 million.
Single-blind Randomised Controlled Trial of Chemonucleolysis
and Manipulation in the Treatment of Symptomatic Lumbar Disc Herniation
Eur Spine J 2000 (Jun); 9 (3): 202–207
Crude cost analysis suggested an overall financial advantage from manipulation. Because osteopathic manipulation produced a 12-month outcome that was equivalent to chemonucleolysis, it can be considered as an option for the treatment of symptomatic lumbar disc herniation, at least in the absence of clear indications for surgery. In this study it was shown that for managing disc herniations, the cost of treatment failures following a medical course of treatment averaged 300 British pounds per patient, while there were no such costs following spinal manipulation.
Manipulative Therapy in Lower Back Pain With Leg Pain and
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1998 (May); 21 (4): 288—294
The patient was initially treated with ice followed by flexion-distraction therapy. This was used over the course of her first three visits. Once she was in less pain, side posture manipulation was added to her care. Nine treatments were required before she was released from care.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Clinical Follow-up: Study of
27 Patients Receiving Chiropractic Care for Cervical
and Lumbar Disc Herniations
J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1996 (Nov); 19 (9): 597—606
Clinically, 80% of the patients studied had a good clinical outcome with postcare visual analog scores under 2 and resolution of abnormal clinical examination findings. Anatomically, after repeat MRI scans, 63% of the patients studied revealed a reduced size or completely resorbed disc herniation. There was a statistically significant association (p < .005) between the clinical and MRI follow-up results. Seventy-eight percent of the patients were able to return to work in their predisability occupations.
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