The goal of sciatica treatment is to relieve the lower body pain and other symptoms that arise when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or irritated. Most forms of non-surgical treatment focus on treating the symptoms rather than the nerve compression itself. Because no two cases of sciatica are exactly alike, each treatment plan will be customized to address the specific symptoms exhibited by a particular patient, whether those symptoms involve a burning pain that courses through the buttocks and thighs, or weakness in one foot that makes walking difficult. This means that communication between the physician and the patient is absolutely critical, especially in the early stages of treatment.
Conservative sciatica treatment comes first
In most cases, conservative sciatica treatment is the first line of defense against the pain, tingling, numbness and/or muscle weakness associated with sciatic nerve compression. The vast majority of sciatica patients typically enjoy at least some relief in treating their symptoms without surgery. This is particularly true for patients whose conditions have been diagnosed early enough that the underlying physical abnormality responsible for the nerve compression has not progressed beyond the point where conservative treatment can help. Early stage bulging discs, herniated discs, osteoarthritis and other degenerative spine conditions typically respond well to a combination of the following conservative treatment methods:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Low-impact exercise to improve flexibility and cardiovascular health
- Light weight training to improve core strength
- Behavior modification to improve posture and cut down on painful activities
- Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation around the nerve
- Applications of heat or cold sources
- Periodic rest
When surgery becomes a sciatica treatment option
If symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative sciatica treatment, surgery might be suggested as the next step. The type of surgery required will depend on the underlying physical cause of the sciatica, as well as the overall health of the patient and the location of the sciatic nerve compression. Patients concerned about the risks and potential side effects of spine surgery should discuss these at length with their physicians. It also is advisable to receive a second, or even a third, medical opinion to make sure that all conservative treatment options have been exhausted.
If you have failed to achieve sciatica relief with conservative treatment methods, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the benefits of minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures.