The sciatic nerve is the largest of its kind in the human body.
It runs from your lower back down through your hips, buttocks, and legs. When this nerve is pinched or irritated due to a related cause, you have a condition called sciatica.
This can be painful and interfere with your daily life, but there is relief available.
Everything You Need to Know about Sciatica Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
Sciatica can be conquered with the right treatment plan tailored for your case. Here’s what you need to know.
The most common sign of sciatica is pain in your lower back that travels down toward your hips, buttocks, and one or both legs.
Another common symptom is weakness in your affected leg along with tingling or numbness.
Sciatica symptoms can often worsen when you bend over from the waist. Coughing, sitting, and sneezing can also bring on sciatica pain.
What Causes Sciatica Symptoms?
The cause of sciatica pain can be varied. It can occur due to:
- Pregnancy – A growing uterus can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain.
- A herniated disk – Weakened spinal discs (due to normal aging or other causes) can push through their exterior casing and put pressure on nearby nerves, including the sciatic nerve.
- Injury – Sudden pressure on your lower spine can cause a herniated disc or put direct pressure on your sciatic nerve.
- Tumors – Very rarely, a tumor growing on the spine can put pressure on the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica.
Learn About Sciatica Treatments: Nonsurgical and Surgical
Treatments are available that aim to lessen and eventually eliminate sciatica pain. We can divide them into two categories: nonsurgical and surgical.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 80-90% of patients who suffer from sciatica heal over time without invasive treatment.
Recommended nonsurgical treatments include:
- Using ice packs to help bring down inflammation and ease pain
- Getting the right kind of exercise, such as walking daily
- Stretching to improve movement and flexibility
- Massaging affected areas to relieve muscle tension
- Taking medication like anti-inflammatory drugs, or getting cortisone injections for pain management
Surgery for Sciatica
Sometimes, sciatica symptoms will persist despite a noninvasive treatment plan. When the pain doesn’t get better even with the best efforts, sciatica surgery is an option.
Types of Surgery
There are different types of surgery for sciatica depending on the cause of the pain.
If a herniated disc is to blame, some or all of it can be surgically removed so it no longer puts pressure on the nerve. When all of it is removed, it’s called a discectomy. If only part of the disc is removed, it’s called a microdiscectomy.
Or, a surgeon can create more space for your nerves (and relieve the compression, pinching, or pressure) by removing part or all of a bony plate in your spine (the lamina). Removing the entire lamina is called a laminectomy, while a partial removal is called a laminotomy.
Types of Surgeons Who Treat Sciatica
If you’re planning on getting surgery to treat your sciatica, you’ll problem have the procedure performed by either a neurosurgeon or an orthopaedic spine surgeon.
What’s the difference?
First, both types of surgeons are qualified to work on your spine. The main differentiator between them is that a neurosurgeon is trained to diagnose and treat nervous system diseases, including those in the brain, spine, and peripheral nerves.
Meanwhile, an orthopaedic spine surgeon treats diseases affecting the skeletal system.
Since your spine, spinal cord, skeletal system, and nervous system intersect in various ways, both types of specialists also overlap when it comes to what they’re qualified to do.
When in doubt, speak to the physician who referred you to the surgeon in question. You can also ask your primary care provider for advice about who you should trust to perform your sciatica surgery.
Sciatic Nerve Surgery Can Greatly Improve Your Long-Term Outlook
These days, surgery is a better option than ever for sciatic nerve pain.
Instead of an ordeal and hospital admission, these surgeries can be done in an outpatient facility, are minimally invasive, and produce better outcomes for sciatic pain sufferers.
According to a study published in The Spine Journal, surgery patients who underwent a herniated disc procedure reported less pain and better function than those who opted for the nonsurgical route. The study showed patient outcomes over a span of eight years.
If you currently suffer from sciatica, do your research, talk with your doctor, and figure out what the right course of action is for your case. Surgery could be the answer to eliminating your pain for good.