Sciatica treatment options

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Sciatica treatment options usually begin with conservative, nonsurgical methods. Surgery for sciatica is considered a last-resort elective measure in all but the most severe cases. Upon diagnosis of a condition causing sciatica, you and your doctor can work together to develop a treatment plan designed to manage the lower-body pain, loss of sensation, tingling and muscle weakness associated with compression of the sciatic nerve.

Factors determining the course of conservative treatment include overall health and severity of symptoms, as well as contributing factors like posture and body mass. Many patients with sciatica are able to find pain relief and a return to everyday activities — grocery shopping, walking the dog, working in the yard — without ever needing to resort to surgery.

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. Pain medication might also be prescribed to reduce pain. In addition to medicine, most doctors recommend the following methods:

  • Light aerobic exercise, gentle stretching and low-impact strength training
  • Hot compresses and ice packs to aid in circulation and reduce swelling
  • Epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation around the sciatic nerve
  • Physical therapy, including massage treatment
  • Lifestyle changes like eating a better diet, quitting smoking and improving posture
  • Alternative treatments, including chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture and mindfulness meditation

Because every situation is different, it can also take some time to find the right combination of treatments. It is important to continue to work closely with your primary care doctor and keep him or her informed of any new treatments you may attempt to undergo as you try to find relief from sciatica.

When is surgery necessary?

Surgical sciatica treatment options are not usually considered before conservative treatment has been attempted. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of these methods, surgery might become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery we provide to treat sciatica. Our board-certified surgeons+ are able to access the spine with a muscle-sparing less than 1-inch incision that reduces the risk of complications like infection, scarring and failed back surgery syndrome.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.

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