Misconceptions About Sciatica Pain

 

 

Misconceptions About Sciatica Pain

 

 

The term sciatica is often used incorrectly to explain leg pain, low back pain and other sciatica symptoms.

It’s a condition so widespread that many people think they can self-treat it or just follow another person’s advice for how to relieve the pain.

However, as this article will explain, there are many myths and misconceptions about sciatica, and patients are well-served to fully understand what can cause sciatica, warning signs that it may be a dangerous condition, and the full range of treatment options, including sciatica exercises.

Sciatica is a relatively common form of leg pain that is often misunderstood by patients. There are frequent misconceptions about what the term sciatica means, why sciatica occurs and how to find relief from the low back pain and leg pain.

 

 

The Truth: Sciatica is a Symptom, Not a Diagnosis

 

Contrary to what many patients believe, sciatica is actually a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis for what is causing the pain.

Especially for more severe cases, the cause of the low back pain and leg pain needs to be correctly addressed in order to relieve discomfort.

Sciatica means that a patient’s sciatic nerve is being compressed by another spinal structure, usually causing pain in the low back, on one side of the rear and/or down the back of the leg. Sciatic nerve irritation usually occurs at the L5 or S1 level of the spine.

The clinical diagnosis (and the focus for treatment) would be whatever problem is actually causing the nerve compression and the sciatic pain.

 

The most common low back problems that cause sciatica are:

 

  • Lumbar disc herniation – where the inner core of a spinal disc in the low back extrudes and places pressure on a nerve root; also called a pinched nerve, slipped disc, bulging disc or protruding disc
  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease – when weakened discs in the low back allow excess motion in the spine and cause irritation of the nerve roots
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis – where one vertebral body slips over another and pinches a nerve root
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – in which a narrowing of the spinal canal in the low back pinches nerve roots, sometimes as the result of a bone spur
  • Lumbar subluxation – a term describing an altered position of the vertebra in the low back and the functional loss that results
  • Other causes – Although less common than those listed above, there are several other conditions that can cause sciatica and require medical attention. For example, patients who have a spinal tumor or infection should seek help immediately.

 

 

Truth: The Sciatica Experience Can Be Different for Each Patient

 

 

Sciatica pain can run from the low back, down the back of each leg and sometimes into the feet and toes. Other sensations associated with sciatica may include tingling and/or a burning or prickly feeling, usually only on one side of the body.

Patients typically feel different types of sciatic pain depending on the location of the nerve compression.

The severity and duration of pain from sciatica also vary among patients. Some find sciatica pain severe and debilitating, while others experience it as irritating and intermittent.

Many patients recover from an episode of sciatica within a few weeks, but there is no hard and fast rule.

Depending on the particular cause of the patient’s sciatica, the leg pain or low back pain could worsen over time and/or take much longer to be relieved.

 

 

Truth: Serious Problems and Damage Can Occur (Though Rare)

 

Pain from sciatica results from damage to the patient’s nerve tissue.

In the vast majority of cases, the nerve damage is not permanent.

However, the following signs indicate that there may be a more serious problem that requires immediate medical attention:

  • Patients who feel weakness or numbness may require surgery, and any patient experiencing these symptoms should seek professional attention.
  • Patients who experience bowel or bladder incontinence (inability to control the bowel or bladder) and/or increasing weakness or loss of sensation in the legs should see a doctor immediately.

 

 

Truth: The Sciatic Nerve Runs From The Low Back To The Toes

The sciatic nerve is located in front of the piriformis muscle (deep in the rear), including the lowest two nerves that exit from the lower spine (L4 and L5) and the first three sacral nerves (S1, S2 and S3).

Each of the nerves has two branches, one on each side of the spine. The root of each nerve exits the spine between two vertebra in the low back, travels down the back of each leg, and branches out to the leg and into each foot. The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the human body.

Sciatic pain that radiates along this nerve can be excruciating and debilitating for many patients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth: Sciatica Leg Pain is Caused by a Problem in the Low Back

 

Patients often feel leg pain from sciatica, which leads them to believe that there is something wrong with their legs.

However, because the sciatic nerve extends through the low back, legs and feet, a problem causing nerve compression in the low back can cause low back pain and feelings of pain through the legs, feet and sometimes the toes.

 

 

 

Truth: The Causes of Sciatica Are Not Genetic

 

 

As explained above, sciatica is the result of a problem in the low back that can develop from aging or from a spinal injury. These conditions are not passed on genetically, as patients may mistakenly believe.

There is no truth to the idea that sciatica is handed down from generation to generation.

 

 

Truth: Piriformis Syndrome Feels Like Sciatica – But It Isn’t The Same

 

Piriformis syndrome is a condition that is often confused with sciatica. When the piriformis muscle becomes tight, it can irritate the sciatic nerve. This causes sciatica-like pain, tingling and numbness that often run from the low back to the rear, down the leg and into the foot.

 

 

Although the discomfort from piriformis syndrome feels similar to sciatica, the two have different causes. With piriformis problems, the pain is not caused by a compressed nerve root where it exits the spine as occurs with true sciatica.

Correctly identifying the cause of the pain is important because the treatments for each type of pain tend to be very different.

 

 

Truth: Pain From Arthritis and Joint Problems Is Not True Sciatica

 

 

The pain from arthritis or other joint problems is actually more common than sciatica, and they are often confused.

In reality, sciatica and arthritis are classified as different types of pain. Radicular pain like sciatica is caused by a pinched nerve.

In contrast, referred leg pain from arthritis is dull, achy and often moves around and varies in intensity.

Although the leg pain from arthritis may feel similar, it is not truly sciatica. Distinguishing the correct problem is important because the treatments for each type of pain often differ.

 

 

Myths About Sciatica Options

 

Patients who have sciatica are best served by a treatment plan that is individualized based on the patient’s symptoms, diagnosis and response to various treatments.

The process of finding relief from low back pain and leg pain associated with sciatica can often require some trial and error. Some patients may find certain treatments more effective than others.

 

 

Truth: The Causes of Sciatica Must Be Treated on an Individualized Basis

 

Because of the many conditions that can compress nerve roots and cause sciatica, one patient’s treatment options may be very different than those of another.

A combination of treatment options is often the most effective course, and many patients will try some combination of the following treatment options:

 

  • Physical therapy and chiropractic treatments can help relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Alternating heat therapy and ice massage therapy can help to relieve acute pain from sciatica.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen or COX-2 inhibitors) or oral steroids may be used to help relieve inflammation.
  • Epidural steroid injections can reduce inflammation around the nerve root and the associated low back pain.
  • To help control the low back pain and leg pain while undergoing other nonsurgical treatments, patients may take pain medications.
  • Surgery may also be considered as a treatment option, usually (but not always) following a course of conservative treatments.

 

It is important to note that what works for one patient may not work for another, even if they have the same back problems.

For example, a patient who has sciatica from a herniated disc may not find relief from conservative treatments and then will choose to undergo lumbar surgery.

Another patient with sciatica from a similar type of herniated disc may find sufficient low back pain and leg pain relief through conservative treatments, including physical therapy, chiropractic, heat and ice therapy, injections and/or medications.

 

 

Truth: Sciatica Can Last For Much Longer, Depending On The Cause

 

Many cases of sciatica go away within a few weeks using conservative treatment methods. However, this is not the case for all patients. For some, sciatica can last much longer, even for several months.

After back problems are diagnosed, the duration and intensity of treatment will need to be adjusted on a patient-by-patient basis.

 

 

Truth: Surgery May Be The Best Treatment Option For Some Patients

 

Patients should avoid having surgery too soon or too late. Although many patients hope to avoid surgery, for some, surgery might be the best (and quickest) option for pain relief.

If the conservative (non-surgical) treatments (such as exercise and physical therapy, chiropractic, injections, etc.) have not helped, the patient’s pain is severe, or if the patient has lost a significant amount of function, surgery may be considered as the most effective treatment.

The appropriate surgical procedure depends on the condition causing the sciatica.

For example, microdiscectomy (microdecompression) may be useful for a herniated disc, while lumbar laminectomy (open decompression) is a common surgical treatment for spinal stenosis. These two procedures have high success rates for relieving patients’ pain.

 

Truth: Exercise Is Usually Critical To Help Heal the Problem Causing Sciatica

 

 

Some patients believe that staying in bed and avoiding physical activity is the best idea when sciatica occurs. For the initial flare up of sciatica, bed rest is usually fine for a day or two.

However, avoiding activity any longer can typically lead to a downward spiral where episodes of pain lead to inactivity, leading to more pain, and so on.

Without proper exercise, low back muscles become weak and deconditioned, leaving them less able to support the back and the spine.

Keeping the hamstrings flexible by stretching is particularly important for sciatica patients, because tight hamstrings add stress to the low back, which can aggravate low back problems.

Exercise also helps exchange nutrients within the spinal discs, keeping them healthy and preventing injury that can cause sciatica.

Patients should develop a gentle exercise program that includes stretching, strengthening and low-impact aerobic exercise.

 

Recommended: Stop Sciatica in 8 Minutes – Completely Cure Your Sciatica Naturally in Less Than 7 Days.

sciaticaebook.jpg

 

Remember that even after sciatica is relieved and other back problems have been treated, the exercise routine should be maintained to keep the back healthy and to help avoid future problems.

Before beginning an exercise program, patients should always consult a health professional. Once the cause of sciatica is diagnosed, the professional can advise the patient about which exercises will be most appropriate and which should be avoided.

 

 

Truth: It Is Best To Consult a Professional Before Self-Treating Sciatica

 

 

Patients with sciatica should not attempt to self-treat their condition without consulting a health professional.

 

 

Establishing a correct diagnosis is the first step towards sciatica relief, as the sciatica treatment options and precautions are different for each diagnosis.

A professional can also detect any serious problems early on and take action to prevent permanent damage or injury.

 

 

As described above, there are many myths about sciatica that patients often believe to be true. However, by gaining a clear understanding of their condition, patients will be better equipped to work with a spine specialist to determine the causes and the best course of treatment for sciatica.

Combining his or her own knowledge with the expertise of a spine specialist is usually a patients’ best strategy for obtaining long term relief from sciatica.

I highly recommend the Stop Sciatica system.  There is a 2 month money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free. 

My husband, Mark used this program, along with his accupressure mat and sessions in our massage chair.  He feels that all three factors helped him to heal.  While you may find relief in 7 days (as the book cover says), I recommend being patient and giving the system at least 3 weeks before you pass judgement.  If you end up feeling that it’s not for you, just request a refund.

 

sciaticaebook.jpgMoney back for sciatica treatment

 

 

You may also be interested in:

What Caregivers Should Know About Sciatica Pain

Aleve Direct Therapy TENS for Back Pain Review

Top 10 Massage Chairs Reviewed

Solving Painkiller-Induced Constipation (OIC)

Blue Emu and Australian Dream – Which One is Better?

The Best Coccyx Cushion for Tailbone Pain

Natural Remedies For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

What Caregivers Should Know About Sciatica Pain

What Caregivers Should Know About Sciatica Pain

 

 

 

 

Sciatica is a term used to describe the symptoms of leg pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness that travel down the low back via the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. Sciatica (sometimes known as radiculopathy) is a description of symptoms, not a diagnosis.

 

Sciatica (pronounced sigh-at-ih-kah) is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself—it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

 

A herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spondylolisthesis can all cause sciatica.

The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg.

 

 

Sciatica Nerve Pain

 

Sciatica is often characterized by one or a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing (vs. a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk

 

Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms can be different in location and severity, depending upon the condition causing the sciatica (such as a lumbar herniated disc ).

While symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result.

 

The Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica

 

Sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed in the lumbar spine.

The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the “sciatic nerve.”

  • The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back at lumbar segment 3 (L3).
  • At each level of the lower spine a nerve root exits from the inside of the spine, and these respective nerve roots then come together to form the large sciatic nerve.
  • The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of each leg
  • Portions of the sciatic nerve then branch out in each leg to innervate certain parts of the leg – the thigh, calf, foot, toes.

 

The specific sciatica symptoms – the leg pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and possibly symptoms that radiate into the foot – largely depend on where the nerve is pinched.

For example, a lumbar segment 5 (L5) nerve impingement can cause weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle.

When discussing sciatica it is important to understand the underlying medical cause of the sciatica symptoms, as effective treatment will focus on addressing the root cause of the pain.

 

6 most common causes of sciatica

 

There are 6 lower back problems that are the most common causes of sciatica:

 

Lumbar herniated disc

A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core of the disc (nucleus pulposus) leaks out, or herniates, through the fibrous outer core (annulus) and irritates the contiguous nerve root.

A herniated disc is sometimes referred to as a slipped disc, ruptured disc, bulging disc, protruding disc, or a pinched nerve. Sciatica is the most common symptom of a lumbar herniated disc.

 

Degenerative disc disease

While disc degeneration is a natural process that occurs with aging, for some people one or more degenerated discs in the lower back can also irritate a nerve root and cause sciatica.

Degenerative disc disease is diagnosed when a weakened disc results in excessive micro-motion at that spinal level, and inflammatory proteins from inside the disc become exposed and irritate the nerve root(s) in the area.

 

Isthmic spondylolisthesis

This condition occurs when a small stress fracture allows one vertebral body to slip forward on another; for example, if the the L5 vertebra slips forward over the S1 vertebra.

With a combination of disc space collapse, the fracture, and the vertebral body slipping forward, the nerve can get pinched and cause sciatica.

 

Lumbar spinal stenosis

This condition commonly causes sciatica due to a narrowing of the spinal canal. Lumbar spinal stenosis is related to natural aging in the spine and is relatively common in adults over age 60.

The condition typically results from a combination of one or more of the following: enlarged facet joints, overgrowth of soft tissue, and a bulging disc placing pressure on the nerve roots, causing sciatica pain.

 

Piriformis syndrome

The sciatic nerve can get irritated as it runs under the piriformis muscle in the buttock. If the piriformis muscle irritates or pinches a nerve root that comprises the sciatic nerve, it can cause sciatica-type pain.

This is not a true radiculopathy (the clinical definition of sciatica), but the leg pain can feel the same as sciatica caused by a nerve irritation.

Interestingly, physical therapists in Los Angeles recently published a case report in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy on a 30 year old male with a 2-year history of piriformis syndrome.

A 3-month program that included 8 clinic visits with a daily home exercise program was prescribed.

The exercise program included the use of elastic resistance bands and resistance band loops which were very effective at reducing the symptoms of piriformis syndrome;  they theorized that by strengthening the gluteus maximus, less stress is put on the piriformis, helping prevent any hip motion that may cause the piriformis to become strained and contract.

 

Recommended: BODYLASTICS 12 PCS Patented Anti-Snap Resistance Bands Set

 

BODYLASTICS 12 PCS Patented Anti-Snap Resistance Bands Set. Includes 5 Best Quality ANTI-SNAP bands, heavy Duty Components: Anchor/Handles/Ankle Straps, and exercise training resources.

 

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

Irritation of the sacroiliac joint—located at the bottom of the spine—can also irritate the L5 nerve, which lies on top of the sacroiliac joint, causing sciatica-type pain.

The leg pain can feel the same as sciatica caused by a nerve irritation.

 

Sciatica Pain

For some people, sciatica pain can be severe and debilitating. For others, the sciatica symptoms might be infrequent and irritating, but have the potential to get worse.

Low back pain may be present along with the leg pain, but typically the leg pain is markedly more severe than the low back pain. Patients often describe their sciatica symptoms as electrical shocks running down the leg, or searing or burning pain.

 

Common Sciatica Symptoms

 

Usually, sciatica only affects one side of the lower body and the pain often radiates from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg.

Some combination of the following symptoms is most common:

  • Lower back pain, if experienced at all, is not as severe as leg pain
  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg, but rarely both the right and left sides
  • Pain that originates in the low back or buttock and continues along the path of the sciatic nerve – down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg and foot
  • Pain that feels better when patients lie down or are walking, but worsens when standing or sitting
  • Pain that is typically described as sharp or searing, rather than dull
  • Some experience a “pins-and-needles” sensation, numbness or weakness, or a prickling sensation down the leg
  • Weakness or numbness when moving the leg or foot
  • Severe or shooting pain in one leg that may make it difficult to stand up or walk
  • Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain and other symptoms may also include foot pain or pain in the toes.

 

Sciatica Symptoms for Each Nerve Root

 

There are two nerve roots that exit the lumbar spine (L4 and L5) and three that exit the sacral segment (S1, S2 and S3).

All five nerves bundle together to form the sciatic nerve, and then branch out again within the leg to deliver motor and sensory functions to specific destinations in the leg and foot.

Sciatica symptoms vary based on where the compressed nerve root is located. For example:

  • L4 nerve root sciatica symptoms usually affect the thigh. Patients may feel weakness in straightening the leg, and may have a diminished knee-jerk reflex.
  • L5 nerve root sciatica symptoms may extend to the big toe and ankle (called foot drop). Patients may feel pain or numbness on top of the foot, particularly on the “web” of skin between the big toe and second toe.
  • S1 nerve root sciatica affects the outer part of the foot, which may radiate to the little toe or toes. Patients may experience weakness when raising the heel off the ground or trying to stand on tiptoes. The ankle-jerk reflex may also be reduced.

Since more than one nerve root may be compressed, patients may experience a combination of the above symptoms.

 

Sciatica Treatments

 

 

For severe or ongoing flare-ups of sciatic nerve pain, the condition may need to be treated so that it does not get worse over time.

For most, readily available nonsurgical remedies and regular exercise will go a long way to relieving their pain.

For others, when the pain is severe or does not get better on its own, a more structured treatment approach, and possibly surgery, may offer the best approach to finding pain relief and preventing or minimizing future pain and/or dysfunction.

 

Heat/Ice

For acute sciatic pain, heat and/or ice packs are readily available and can help alleviate the leg pain, especially in the initial phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes, and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some people find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated. It is best to apply ice with a cloth or towel placed between the ice and skin to avoid an ice burn.

 

Recommended: Sunbeam Body Shaped Heating Pad with Hot and Cold Pack

 

Sunbeam Body Shaped Heating Pad with Hot and Cold Pack

 

 

Pain Medications

Over-the-counter or prescription medications are often effective in reducing or relieving sciatica pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or COX-2 inhibitors), or oral steroids can reduce the inflammation that is usually part of the cause of the pain. There are also alternative medications and supplements that appear to help some people.

 

Recommended: NaturalCare NerveFix

 

NaturalCare: NerveFix, 60 caps

 

 

Epidural Steroid Injections for Sciatica

If the pain is severe, an epidural steroid injection can be performed to reduce the inflammation. An epidural injection is different from oral medications because the steroid is injected directly into the painful area around the sciatic nerve to help decrease the inflammation that may be causing the pain.

While the effects tend to be temporary (providing pain relief for as little as one week up to a year), and it does not work for everyone, an epidural steroid injection can be effective in relieving acute sciatic pain. Importantly, it can provide sufficient relief to allow a patient to progress with a conditioning and exercise program.

 

Alternative Sciatica Treatment

 

In addition to standard medical treatments, several alternative treatments have also been shown to provide effective sciatica pain relief for many patients. Three of the more common forms of alternative care for sciatica include chiropractic manipulation, acupuncture, and massage therapy.

 

Chiropractic/manual manipulation

Spinal adjustments and manual manipulation performed by appropriately trained health professionals, such as chiropractors and osteopathic physicians, are focused on providing better spinal column alignment, which in turn should help to address a number of underlying conditions that can cause sciatic nerve pain.

Manual manipulation done to address the right indications by appropriately trained health professionals can create a better healing environment and should not be painful.

 

Acupuncture

The practice is centered on the philosophy of achieving or maintaining well being through the open flow of energy via specific pathways in the body. Hair-thin needles (that are usually not felt) are inserted into the skin near the area of pain.

Acupuncture has been approved by the U.S. FDA as a treatment for back pain, and the National Institutes of Health has recognized acupuncture as effective in relieving back pain, including sciatica.

 

Recommended: Nayoya Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set

 

Nayoya Back and Neck Pain Relief - Acupressure Mat and Pillow Set - Relieves Stress, Back, Neck, and Sciatic Pain - Comes with a Vinyl Carry Bag for Storage and Travel - As Seen in USA Today

 

 

 

 

Massage therapy

Certain forms of massage therapy have been shown to have a number of benefits for back pain, including increased blood circulation, muscle relaxation, and release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain relievers). Using a massage chair can be a good alternative for looking for convenience a savings.

 

 

 

 

 

TENS For Sciatica

 

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) for sciatica is a very popular complementary therapy used in conjunction with many other forms of conservative treatment. TENS is the most common form of electrotherapy used to treat back and leg pain.

TENS treatment consists of steady or pulsing doses of electricity delivered directly to the affected area, via small electrodes which are adhered to the skin.

There are 2 different frequencies which are usually used, depending on the nature of the painful complaint: high frequency stimulation and low frequency stimulation.

TENS theoretically works by disrupting the neurological messages which signal pain. The charged currents provided by the treatment break up the nerve signals, which are also electrical in nature, before they can reach the brain.

Electrotherapy seems to provide very case-specific and individualized results. Two patients with the exact same clinical pain profile might experience completely different results from the same program of TENS treatment.

Many doctors speculate that this is due to the individual nature of each person’s nervous system and how they are wired to send and receive nerve messages.

 

Recommended: WiTouch Wireless TENS

 

WiTouch Wireless TENS OTC Green

 

 
 

 

Physical therapy exercises incorporating a combination of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic conditioning are a central component of almost any sciatica treatment plan.

When patients engage in a regular program of gentle exercises, they can recover more quickly from sciatica pain and are less likely to have future episodes of pain.

 

 

General Exercises for Sciatica

 

Sciatica exercises usually focus on three key areas: strengthening, stretching and aerobic conditioning.

 

Strengthening exercises

Many exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the lower back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles.

Taken together, these strong core muscles can provide pain relief because they support the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine with less chance of injury or damage.

 

Stretching exercises

Stretching is usually recommended to alleviate sciatic pain. Stretches for sciatica are designed to target muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible.

Hamstring stretching is almost always an important part of a sciatica exercise program.

 

Low impact aerobic exercise

Some form of low impact cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, swimming or pool therapy is usually a component of recovery, as aerobic activity encourages the exchange of fluids and nutrients to help create a better healing environment.

Aerobic conditioning also has the unique benefit of releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, which helps reduce sciatic pain.

 

Sciatica Surgery

 

Typically, it is reasonable to consider surgery for sciatica in the following situations:

  • Severe leg pain that has persisted for 4 to 6 weeks or more
  • Pain relief that is not achieved after a concerted effort at non-surgical sciatica treatments, such as one or a combination of oral steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, manual manipulation, injections, and/or physical therapy
  • The condition is limiting the patient’s ability to participate in everyday activities

 

Urgent surgery is typically only necessary if the patient experiences progressive weakness in the legs, or sudden loss of bowel or bladder control, which may be caused by cauda equina syndrome.

Depending on the cause and the duration of the sciatica pain, one of two surgical procedures will typically be considered:

  • A microdiscectomy (or small open surgery)
  • A lumbar laminectomy (an open decompression)

 

Microdiscectomy for Sciatica

 

In cases where the sciatica pain is due to a lumbar disc herniation, a microdiscectomy or small open surgery with magnification may be considered. In this surgery, only the portion of the herniated disc that is pinching the nerve is removed – the rest of the disc is left intact.

This surgery is generally considered after 4 to 6 weeks if the severe pain is not relieved by non-surgical means. If the patient’s pain and disability is severe, surgery may be considered sooner than 4 to 6 weeks.

As a general rule, approximately 90% to 95% of patients will experience relief from their sciatica pain after this type of surgery.

 

Lumbar Laminectomy for Sciatica

 

In cases where the sciatica pain is due to lumbar spinal stenosis, a lumbar laminectomy may be recommended. In this surgery, the small portion of the bone and/or disc material that is pinching the nerve root is removed.

Laminectomy surgery may be offered as an option if the spinal stenosis causes the patient’s activity tolerance to fall to an unacceptable level. The patient’s general health may also be a consideration in whether or not to have surgery.

After a lumbar laminectomy (also called an open decompression), approximately 70% to 80% of patients typically experience relief from their sciatic nerve pain.

 

Surgery is the Patient’s Decision

 

In most cases, sciatica surgery is elective, meaning that it is the patient’s decision whether or not to have surgery. This is true for both microdiscectomy and laminectomy surgery.

The patient’s decision to have surgery is based primarily on the amount of pain and dysfunction the patient is experiencing, and the length of time that the pain persists. The patient’s overall health is a consideration as well.

 

Additional Sciatica Surgery Considerations

 

There are many personal considerations for the patient to take into account when deciding whether or not to have surgery.

 

Effectiveness of non-surgical treatments

Some patients may prefer to try as many different non-surgical sciatica treatments and remain with non-surgical care for as long as possible, and often they will figure out how to successfully manage their condition and keep painful symptoms at bay.

For example, a patient who has intermittent flare-ups of severe sciatica pain may find that a combination of initial rest and an epidural steroid injection followed by a gentle stretching and exercise program is effective in alleviating the pain as needed.

 

Need for immediate pain relief

Some patients may have a personal preference or a life situation that will benefit from the more immediate pain relief that is usually afforded by surgery. For example, a patient with small children may not have the time to pursue non-surgical remedies and may need immediate pain relief in order to be able to take care of the children and household duties.

The important point is that it is almost always the patient’s decision whether or not to have the surgery, and the surgeon’s role should be to help inform that patient of his or her options to help the patient make the best choice.

Sciatica is a painful condition and the road to recovery is different for everyone.  Please share your experience with sciatica in the comment section below.

 

 

Thoughts, questions, tips?  Feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Misconceptions About Sciatica Pain

Aleve Direct Therapy TENS for Back Pain Review

Top 10 Massage Chairs Reviewed

Blue Emu and Australian Dream – Which One is Better?

Best Hemorrhoid Treatment Product Reviews

Do Prescription Discount Cards Actually Save You Money?

Natural Remedies For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Simple Gadget for a Better Back

The Best Coccyx Cushion for Tailbone Pain

Choosing a Walking Cane

Solving Painkiller-Induced Constipation (OIC)

About Me

Create Your Own Blog