Sciatica treatment options usually begin with conservative, non-surgical methods. Surgery for sciatica is generally considered a last-resort elective surgery, which means the patient makes a decision to have surgery because non-surgical treatment options are not providing the desired level of relief. If spinal nerve compression in the lower back causes severe repercussions, however, emergency surgery may be necessary.
It all begins with a proper diagnosis. Once a sciatica diagnosis has been confirmed by a physician, the patient and physician will work together to develop a treatment plan designed to manage the lower-body pain, loss of sensation, tingling and other symptoms associated with compression of the sciatic nerve. Factors determining the course of conservative treatment include the overall health of the patient, issues that might be contributing to sciatic nerve compression (such as being overweight or working in a job that requires a lot of standing or sitting) and the severity of the symptoms.
Conservative sciatica treatment options
Because no two cases of sciatica are exactly alike, the treatment options prescribed will vary from person to person. In most cases, some form of anti-inflammatory medication will be used to manage swelling. Analgesics might also be prescribed to help alleviate pain. Most physicians recommend staying as active as possible in spite of sciatic pain, which means exercise, stretching and strength training might be included in the treatment regimen. Hot compresses and ice packs are often used, and sometimes alternated, to aid in circulation and to combat swelling, respectively. Extreme pain might call for the use of corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation around the sciatic nerve. There also are a number of non-conventional treatment methods available, including chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, decompression tables and others. The efficacy of these complementary and alternative methods remains up for debate, and they should be discussed with a physician before implementation.
When is surgery necessary?
Surgical sciatica treatment options are not usually considered before a regimen of conservative treatment has been attempted. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to find out about the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures our surgeons perform to help patients experience meaningful relief from sciatica and other degenerative spine conditions. One of our orthopedic experts will conduct a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan to determine whether you are a candidate.