What is Sciatica and What Are Effective Treatments for It?
If you’ve ever heard someone complaining of lower back or leg pain, you’ve probably heard the term “sciatica.” Sciatica is caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve, which is the largest and longest spinal nerve in the body and runs from the buttocks region into the thighs. Sciatica causes sharp pain or numbness down your lower back and legs.
Typically, sciatica is easy to identify because it is a symptom of an underlying health issue, not a medical diagnosis. Medical conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis , degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or sacroiliac joint dysfunction are some of the most common causes of sciatica. In many cases, acute sciatica will heal on its own. However, chronic sciatica can produce regular discomfort, affecting your ability to live a quality life. People who have severe sciatica can alleviate pain with both self-care treatments and surgical procedures.
Self-Care Treatments for Sciatica
A self-care treatment plan for sciatica has two key components: decreasing your pain and increasing your mobility. Generally, common self-care treatments include:
● Over-the-counter medicines: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen can reduce inflammation and swelling.
● Cryotherapy or thermotherapy: Cold compresses can be used to reduce pain and swelling whereas heat compresses can be used to reduce stiffness. Alternating between heat and cold therapy several times a day can relieve your discomfort.
● Gentle stretches: Light stretching can ease pain from sciatica by increasing blood flow and improving your strength and flexibility. A licensed instructor or spine specialist can teach you some proper stretching techniques to handle your specific pain.
Since there is no “one-size-fits-all” self-care plan, your level of pain will determine how simple or complex your self-care treatment will be. Often, someone with acute sciatica will experience better results from these self-care treatments rather than someone with chronic sciatica.
When Should I See a Doctor About Sciatica if Self-Care Treatments Don’t Help?
Each case of sciatica is unique. Where it hurts, the pain level, and the source of the pain will be different in every person. If you’ve tried self-care treatments anywhere between four to six consecutive weeks and you still don’t feel better, then it may be time to talk to a doctor for more aggressive treatments. A doctor may recommend or prescribe other treatment options such as:
● Prescription medications
● Physical therapy
● Spinal injections
● Alternative therapies
Call your doctor immediately if your symptoms get worse after trying their treatment options. If your pain gets worse, despite trying both self-care and doctor-recommended treatments, surgery may be your next best option.
Effective Surgical Procedures for Sciatica
If you’ve explored all non-surgical options and your pain is still debilitating, surgery may be the only way to relieve sciatic nerve pain. The type of surgical procedure you undergo and how soon surgery would be considered depend on the cause of your sciatica. Regardless, the goal of spinal surgery for sciatic pain remains the same—to stabilize the spine and remove pressure on the sciatic nerve. Two common surgical options to relieve sciatica include:
● Microdiscectomy: This is a minimally invasive spinal surgery that focuses on removing compression and pressure from the nerves. Your surgeon will make a small incision in the skin near the affected area. Once the necessary incisions are made, a small camera is used to view the affected parts, which helps your surgeon access and remove the damaged material. It will treat pain and numbness around the affected area.
● Laminoforaminotomy: In this surgery, a minuscule hole the size of a nickel or dime is created in the affected area. A long narrow tube is then used to perform laminectomy and amniotomy. The incisions made by your surgeon are very small and the aim is to go around the muscles and tissues instead of cutting through them. This results in less pain and less blood loss, which makes this method very useful.
These procedures are relatively short, have minimal downtime, and are considered safe and effective. Your health provider will reach out to schedule a follow-up examination and provide you with a care plan to help you fully recover in no time.
Get Relief from Sciatica Pain from Top Surgeons
Control your sciatic nerve pain so it doesn’t control you. The exceptional medical team at NJ Spine and Orthopedics will listen to your story, help determine the source of your sciatic nerve pain, and establish a treatment plan that works best for you. With the state-of-the-art technology and board-certified team of surgeons at NJ Spine and Orthopedics, you can rest assured that you will be provided with an accurate diagnosis and a minimally invasive treatment plan that will help get your life back on track.
With convenient locations throughout New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida, help is never far away. We take pride in our “patient promise”—smaller incisions, shorter recovery times, finer precision, and longer-lasting results. Our strong commitment to providing high-quality individualized care has earned us our reputation as trusted and reliable leaders in the healthcare industry. Call (866) 272-9271 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation in a location near you.