Comparing sciatic back pain and disc degeneration

If you are one of the millions of people who, at some point in their lives, have experienced sciatic pain, then disc deterioration may be at fault. Our spines are made up of vertebrae, spinal discs, facet joints, muscles, ligaments and nerves. As we age, certain portions of our spinal anatomy, namely the spinal discs, begin to weaken.

These discs can cause degenerative spinal abnormalities that pinch or compress the sciatic nerve, resulting in an electric shock sensation and the feeling of radiating pain, tingling and numbness that is collectively referred to as sciatica. Learn more about the correlation between sciatic back pain and disc degeneration in the following article.

The sciatic nerve and disc abnormalities

The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body. It is made up of several different nerves that begin at the L4 (fourth lumbar vertebra) and L5 (fifth lumbar vertebra) levels of the spine. It then leaves the spinal cord through two openings in the sacral (pelvic) spine called the sciatic foramina, which are open passageways formed by the sciatic notch and various pelvic ligaments. From here, the sciatic nerve travels through the buttocks, thighs, knees, calves, feet and toes.

A variety of spinal abnormalities, such as bone spurs and spondylolisthesis, can cause sciatic neuropathy. The most common causes of sciatic pain, however, are disc abnormalities, including:

  • Herniated discs. The outer wall of a weakened spinal disc tears and leaks its inner disc fluid into the spinal canal, where it impacts nearby nerves.
  • Bulging discs. A weakened disc pushes beyond its normal perimeter. Although still intact, the protruding disc can come into contact with adjacent spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself.

Treating sciatica symptoms by healing a damaged disc

The good news is that most cases of sciatic nerve pain caused by a herniated or bulging disc will heal over a period of time with conservative treatment. Talk to your physician about designing a nonsurgical pain relief plan that works for you. This may include sciatica stretches, behavior modification, hot and cold compresses, prescription pain medications or sciatic nerve block injections.

If several weeks or months of sciatic treatment do not help you achieve lasting relief, your doctor may suggest that you consider surgery. Before assuming that a highly invasive traditional open spine fusion or disc replacement surgery is your only option, contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from back pain through the muscle-sparing techniques.

At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons use a less than 1-inch incision to remove the structure that is pinching the nerve in order to alleviate the chronic symptoms associated with sciatic pain and disc degeneration. With less bleeding and a lower risk of complication, our procedures result in a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery.^

Through a no-cost MRI review* of your spine, we can evaluate your condition to see if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine surgery procedures. We are here to help guide you on your journey to wellness.

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