A pinched nerve in the spine occurs when a bone spur, herniated disc, or other tissue compresses a nerve, causing pain at the site and potentially wherever the affected nerve travels. This is often the case with sciatica – the sciatic nerve is pinched by a herniated disc, a portion of which pushes into the spinal canal and impinges on the sciatic nerve. The pain of this impingement sometimes shoots from the lower back, down the buttocks and through one leg. It can reach as far as the toes. Radiating pain can also occur when sciatica is caused by foraminal stenosis. Foraminal stenosis is a build-up of bone or other tissue, and this build-up creates pressure in the passageway through which nerves travel from the spinal canal to the rest of the body. In some cases, a pinched nerve resolves on its own. Other times, it requires treatment. Depending on the severity of the pain, your doctor may recommend a treatment as mild and simple as stretching, or as complex and invasive as open-back surgery.
Depending on the cause of your pinched nerve, any of the following surgeries may be recommended:
- Percutaneous endoscopic discectomy: removal of disc material that presses on nerves. Used to treat conditions including degenerative disc disease, bulging disc, and herniated disc.
- Foraminotomy: the clearing out of bone or tissue in the foramen to ease the pressure on the nerve passing through. Used to treat conditions including foraminal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc, and bone spurs.
- Laminotomy: a removal of a portion of the lamina (a thin bone plate that protects the nerves exiting a vertebra) to create more room underneath. Used to treat conditions including spinal stenosis, bulging disc, herniated disc, and bone spurs.
All of these pinched nerve procedures can come with a variety of risks and complications when performed in a traditional manner. However, when endoscopic methods are employed, as they are at Laser Spine Institute, the likelihood of those risks and complications dramatically decrease.