Sciatica — what is it and how is it treated?

Sciatica occurs when the sciatic nerve – the body’s largest nerve, located in the lower back and traveling through the legs – becomes compressed. This commonly occurs as the result of a degenerative spine condition such as degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis. These conditions develop when the anatomical elements of the spine begin to deteriorate due to the wear and tear that comes with supporting the body’s weight and lending the neck and back their flexibility. Degenerative spine conditions can lead to sciatica when an inflamed or misaligned vertebrae or intervertebral disc, for example, applies pressure to the sciatic nerve.

Symptoms

Sciatica symptoms typically only affect one side of the body and include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain

These symptoms can be felt in the lower back, hips, buttocks and/or legs.

Treatments

Most patients are able to relieve their sciatica symptoms with conservative, non-invasive treatments, such as analgesics and over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the use of hot and/or cold compresses and physical therapy, among others. Some patients choose to take a more holistic approach to their sciatica treatment by utilizing alternative therapies such as acupuncture, restorative yoga, Pilates, deep tissue massage and chiropractic manipulation.

In the event that several weeks or months of conservative treatment and/or alternative therapy fail to relieve a patient’s sciatica symptoms, a physician might recommend surgery. Before consenting to traditional open spine surgery, which requires an arduous rehabilitation, patients might want to consider the minimally invasive procedures performed by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and have a 96 patient satisfaction average. Contact us for a review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn more about our effective alternatives to open neck and back surgery.

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