Sciatica is a relatively common problem that can occur for many reasons. The term refers to the compression of the sciatic nerve and the symptoms that result from that compression. The sciatic nerve travels from the low back down the buttocks and backs of the legs. Sciatica symptoms typically only occur on one side of the body. While doctors and patients frequently try to manage symptoms using nonsurgical modalities such as medication and physical therapy, there may be a point at which surgery needs to be considered. Here, we answer some of the common questions about surgery for sciatica.
Is surgery the only way to get rid of my sciatica symptoms?
- Surgery is not the only treatment option for sciatica, but it may be the best treatment option in certain circumstances. Specialists like Dr. Albert make determinations regarding surgical planning based on a comprehensive diagnostic process. This includes consultation, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging. The thoroughness of this multi-pronged approach can identify the underlying cause of pain and whether or not surgery is needed sooner rather than later. Surgery is considered when:
- Pain in the leg or foot is severe and coincides with numbness or weakness.
- Nonsurgical treatments have been performed but failed to achieve the desired improvement.
- The function of the leg becomes severely limited, impairing the performance of daily activities.
What is sciatica surgery?
Sciatica may result from various lower back conditions. If surgery is recommended, it will correspond with the underlying cause. Surgical options for sciatica include:
- Microdiscectomy, a procedure that removes a small portion of the disc material that is impeding on a nerve root. Part of the adjacent bone may also be removed to create necessary nerve space.
- The vertebral foramen is an opening through which nerves travel. A foraminotomy enlarges this space to resolve nerve compression.
- Lumbar decompression with laminectomy. This procedure relieves pressure on nerve roots by removing the lamina (back part of the vertebra).
Spine surgery has progressed dramatically in recent years. Most spinal procedures are minimally-invasive, needing only small incisions. With the appropriate procedure, patients may experience immediate relief from sciatica. These results are consistent 1 to 2 years after surgery.