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Could Surgery Be The Quickest Path to Sciatica Relief?

By December 10, 2020January 19th, 2021Sciatica Pain / Piriformis Syndrome

You’ve tried everything to treat your sciatica pain, but nothing really seems to work. The frustration itself can be more painful than the condition – watching life from the sidelines while you search and search for something that will finally relieve your sciatica pain for good. You keep asking yourself, your doctor, and Google “How do I get my sciatic nerve to stop hurting?” To no avail. But don’t lose hope. Sciatica surgery can provide immediate relief for sciatica pain. 

What is sciatica? 

Sciatica is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve, which extends from the buttocks, through the hips, and down each leg. Usually, people only experience sciatica pain on one side of their body. 

Symptoms of sciatica

Sciatica pain can range from mild to severe, and it typically presents as pain that starts in the buttocks and radiates down the back of the leg to the calf. If you have sciatica, you probably experience: 

  • Pain that worsens with sitting 
  • Pain that increases instantly with a cough or sneeze 
  • Numbness in the affected leg or foot 
  • Tingling in the affected leg or foot 
  • Muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot

What causes sciatica? 

Sciatica pain is caused by the sciatic nerve being compressed, pinched, or damaged somewhere along its pathway. Sciatica is most often caused by a herniated disc in the spine or a bone spur on a vertebrae. On rare occasions, a tumor near the nerve can compress or pinch the sciatic nerve. Diabetes also can cause sciatica pain if the disease has progressed to the point that it damages nerve cells. 

Risk factors for sciatica

Some people are more likely to experience sciatic pain than others. Certain conditions make you more prone to develop sciatica, such as: 

  • Advanced age – As we age, our bodies are more likely to incur the type of damage that can lead to sciatica, such as herniated discs and bone spurs. 
  • Being overweight – Those extra pounds put additional pressure on your spine, which can lead to herniated discs and compression in the spine which can trigger sciatica. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle – Sitting for long periods increases the risk of sciatica.
  • Having diabetes – Diabetes can damage the nerves of the body and may increase your risk of developing sciatica. 
  • Injury – Car accidents, horseback riding injuries, falls and sports injuries can all lead to sciatica pain if the bones of the spine are broken, crushed, or compressed during the injury. 

Non-surgical treatments for sciatica

If you’ve been dealing with sciatica pain for a while, you probably already know this list by heart. If there are treatments on this list that you haven’t tried, talk to your doctor. You may still have options other than sciatica surgery to get your sciatica pain under control. 

Non-surgical sciatica treatments include: 

  • Chiropractic adjustments 
  • Massage therapy 
  • Acupuncture 
  • Stretching exercises 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Muscle relaxant medication
  • Anti-inflammatory medications 
  • Pain relievers 
  • Steroid injections 
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure medication 
  • Heat/Ice 

When does a pinched sciatic nerve need surgery? 

Fortunately, most sciatica patients find relief without surgery. But if you’re experiencing sciatic pain that doesn’t respond well to non-surgical treatments, pain that’s severe enough to disrupt your life, and severe numbness and tingling in the affected leg, surgery may be the best option for relief. 

Surgery is most often recommended to patients whose sciatica pain is caused by a physical issue that can be corrected with surgery (rather than nerve damage caused by a disease such as diabetes). The most common causes of sciatica that respond well to surgery include:

  • Herniated disc 
  • Spinal stenosis 
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Cyst
  • Tumor 
  • Spinal compression 

Types of surgery for sciatica 

Depending on the condition that’s causing your sciatica pain, your surgeon will select the appropriate surgery to address the underlying condition and relieve your sciatica pain. Unlike non-surgical treatments for sciatica, surgery provides almost immediate relief for sciatica pain. 

Microdiscectomy – Microdiscectomy, which is also called micro decompression, is a minimally invasive spine surgery that removes the herniated portion of the disc that is pressing on the sciatic nerve. Microdiscectomy is done through a small incision near the spine. Patients go home the same day and are encouraged to start walking within a few hours of their surgery. 

Endoscopic Laminectomy – An endoscopic laminectomy treats spinal stenosis by opening up a channel in this spinal lamina for the sciatic nerve to pass through without compression. A laminectomy decompresses the sciatic nerve, immediately eliminating sciatica pain in 75% to 90% of patients. 

Foraminotomy – In a foraminotomy, the neuroforamen (the spaces on each side of the spine that allow nerves from the spinal cord to travel to other parts of the body) is made larger so that the sciatic nerve can pass through without compression. This is usually accomplished by removing a small amount of bone from the vertebrae. 

Facetectomy – A facetectomy relieves compression on the sciatic nerve caused by degeneration in the facet joints of the vertebrae. The joints are usually trimmed down or sometimes removed altogether to relieve pressure on the nerve. An estimated 85% of patients experience relief after undergoing a facetectomy.

Sciatic nerve laser surgery – Sciatic laser nerve surgery uses a laser to remove tissue that is compressing the sciatic nerve. 

Surgery for sciatica recovery time 

After sciatica surgery, you can expect to be up and walking within hours or the next day. Sciatica surgery is typically an outpatient procedure, so your recovery will be done at home. It generally takes sciatica surgery patients two to four weeks to fully recover from surgery, though recovery can take longer if your surgery involves more than one vertebra or disc. 

Looking for immediate relief from sciatica pain? The Tollestrup Team can help. 

If you’re tired of dealing with sciatica pain and non-invasive treatments aren’t providing the immediate relief for sciatica pain you want, surgery may be the right option for you. Schedule an appointment today by calling 702-505-8781. Dr. Tollestrup and his team are experts at treating sciatica pain and other disorders of the peripheral nervous system. You don’t have to suffer. Call to schedule your appointment today.