With Sciatica, When is Surgery Necessary?
What is Sciatica?
Back pain comes in many forms, shapes and sizes and affects millions of people every day. Back pain can be debilitating and can interfere with simple activities like walking, sitting, or bending over, altering your lifestyle and keeping you from doing things you used to enjoy.
However, there are a variety of methods and treatments to eliminate back pain and get you back to an active life. Identifying the root cause of any neck or back pain, though, is the first step in determining how to address and treat your pain.
Sciatica is the most common cause of back pain in the US, affecting more than 3 million people per year. The reason sciatica is so common is because sciatica occurs when any damage or injury impacts the sciatic nerve and results in sporadic or lingering pain.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the spine, which is why sciatica is frequently a condition causing back pain. It delivers nerve and pain signals from the back to the thighs, lower legs and feet.
One of the most distinguishing traits of sciatica compared to other spine conditions is that pain will almost always occur in one or both legs, sometimes resulting in greater leg pain than lower back pain.
How Do You Know if You Are Suffering From Sciatica?
Sciatica begins with pain in the spine that usually radiates down the back of your leg. This can be felt as singular jolting pain or intermittent or lasting tingling or numbness that travels throughout the leg.
Common symptoms that signal sciatica are:
- Pain occurring in one leg when you’re not a runner, jogger or athlete
- Pain occurring in one leg not due to an accident or injury
- Pain that cannot be triggered by pressure points (pushing on specific areas of the back to replicate the pain conditions is usually due to a muscular issue, not a nerve issue)
- Inability to stretch one or both legs 45 degrees up when lying down
When Would Sciatica Require Surgery?
While there are many at-home treatments that can treat or at least minimize the pain associated with sciatica, sometimes surgical intervention may be necessary.
When non-surgical treatments like hot or cold compresses, stretching, massage or physical therapy fail to adequately treat your pain, minimally invasive spine surgery may be the most option for your treatment.
Surgery for sciatica may be recommended in the following situations:
- Severe leg pain that has persisted for four to six weeks or more
- Pain that is not relieved after a concerted effort at non-surgical sciatica treatments, such as oral steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, manual manipulation, injections, and/or physical therapy
- Limitations on the patient’s ability to participate in everyday activities
How Successful is Surgery at Fixing Sciatica-Related Pain?
If you are experiencing sciatica because of a herniated disc, a minimally invasive surgery like microdiscectomy is a likely recommended course of treatment and has proven highly successful at eliminating sciatica-related pain.
In a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica, at a one-year follow up visit, patients who had undergone a microdiscectomy for sciatica reported a 95 percent perceived recovery.
If you suspect you are suffering from sciatica, or if you are experiencing persistent neck, back or joint pain, the experienced and dedicated staff at Champey Pain & Spine Group is here to help. Please reach out to a patient representative, or give us a call today, (973) 346-2330, to get started on the path to living a pain-free life.