About Sciatica Surgery
Sciatica is the term given to pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs down one or both legs from the lower back. It is triggered by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. Anything that compresses this nerve can cause discomfort and pain, ranging from mild to severe.
Most of the time, the word ‘sciatica’ is associated with general back pain. But, sciatica is not just restricted to the back. In fact, the longest and the widest nerve in the human body is the sciatic nerve. It runs from your lower back, through your buttocks, and down the back of each of your legs.
Depending on the cause and duration of the sciatica pain, one of two general surgeries will typically be considered:
- A microdiscectomy
- A lumbar laminectomy
These can be performed traditionally (open surgery) or minimally invasive.
How Do I Know If I Need Sciatica Surgery?
For patients with sciatica, sciatica surgery is typically considered a last resort for situations where nonsurgical therapies do not produce the desired results or outcomes. For those individuals whose sciatica nerve pain does not subside — or even gets worse — despite the use of pain medications, physical therapy and other conservative options, surgery may be able to provide much-needed relief. Patients are encouraged to evaluate first the pros and cons of the procedure. This includes thoughtful decision making as to how sciatica surgery might temporarily or permanently change their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
If you have sciatica, we encourage you to make a choice that will be most beneficial for you because surgery might not be for everyone. The final decision to undergo sciatica surgery should be made in conjunction with your physician and depends on your current condition.
If you are considering surgery as your next best option, here are 5 signs that sciatica surgery might be right for you:
1. Persistent pain even after conservative treatments
Prolonged non-surgical treatments (also called conservative therapies) might give you a good chance for the pain to go away without resorting to surgery. However, for some individuals, conservative treatment such as dietary modifications, physical therapy, and medications may not produce positive results, and sciatica may persist for a longer extended period.
In general, surgery is suggested if sciatica does not subside — or if sciatica nerve pain gets worse — despite all non-surgical treatments. Surgery may be able to provide the much-needed pain relief.
2. Impaired physical mobility
Sciatica can affect lower limbs’ function due to nerve compression. If your sciatica makes it difficult for you to stand for extended periods of time or makes it difficult for you to walk, you should discuss surgery with your care provider.
In some cases, the more dysfunction, immobility, and pain an individual experiences, the earlier sciatica surgery will be considered. If the pain has made it difficult—if not impossible—to participate in normal daily activies, surgery might be your best option.
3. Presence of bladder or bowel dysfunction
Bladder and bowel dysfunction due to sciatica constitute a medical emergency. These symptoms may require immediate attention because it may mean nerve damage or compression.
It is vital that bowel or bladder problems are appropriately managed, because being unable to empty your bowel or bladder could lead to infections or sepsis, as well as chronic bladder infections that might lead to permanent kidney damage.
4. Development of neurological issues
Neurological issues such as loss of sensation, weakness, or numbness in the lower extremities may denote cauda equina syndrome. Cauda equina syndrome is a state that results from compression or squeezing of the nerves at the base of the spinal cord. Cauda equina syndrome is a rare sequela of sciatica.
Individuals who are diagnosed with sciatica should not ignore developing signs and symptoms of neurological deficiency because it might be a medical emergency (cauda equina) which requires surgical decompression.
5. Sexual dysfunction
Some of the nerves that join to form the sciatic nerve also provide sensation and control to the genital regions. When sexual dysfunction happens, the nerves at the base of your spinal cord may be squashed or trapped. Compression or squashing of these nerves may cause numbness or pain and difficulty with sexual function.
Surgery may be used to decompress the pinched nerve, especially for those who are experiencing cauda equina syndrome. Surgery opens up the space causing compression, relieving the pressure on the affected nerves.
As with any condition, surgery is usually considered as the last treatment option. But for situations that may be listed above, surgical methods may be warranted. Please consult with our spine experts today to deterimine if you are a good candidate for sciatica surgery.
If you’re considering to undergo sciatica surgery and would like to know more about our minimally invasive procedures, please don’t hesitate to contact Saint Camillus Medical Center at 817-519-3700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “Sciatica Surgery .” Back Pain, Neck Pain, Lower Back Pain | Spine-Health. <http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sciatica/sciatica-surgery>.
- “Surgery for Sciatica – Types of Spine Surgery to Address Underlying Spinal Condition Causing Sciatica.” Back Pain, Neck Pain, Lower Back Pain, and Spinal Disorders by Spine Experts | SpineUniverse. <http://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/sciatica/surgery-sciatica>.
- “Cauda equina syndrome Information for patients.” University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. <http://www.uhs.nhs.uk/Media/Controlleddocuments/Patientinformation/Brain-and-spine/Caudaequinasyndrome-patientinformation.pdf>.