Causes and Treatments of Sciatica for People Aged 50+

Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve when it becomes irritated, inflamed, or compressed. This nerve runs all the way from your back, to your feet and Sciatica can cause considerable pain and a lack of mobility, forcing many people to seek out treatments and pain relief. This condition can often impact people over the age of 50

In this article, we will focus on the causes and treatments of Sciatica for people aged 50+, hopefully answering some of the questions you may have about the condition. 

What causes Sciatica?

There are various reasons why parts of your spine can run against the sciatic nerve, these can include;

A Slipped Disc – This is often the most common cause of Sciatica and involves the soft tissue (the disc) found between the bones being pushed out and coming into contact with the nerves. 

Spondylolisthesis – This condition is when the bone itself slips out of position and comes into contact with another bone. 

Spinal Stenosis – This is when part of your spine narrows in an area where the nerves pass through, causing compression. 

A common back injury – Sciatica could be the result of a more minor, innocuous injury that has impacted your spine.

Common Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica can affect the back of your leg, the posterior, feet, and toes, with the severity and type of symptom ranging considerably. 

Pain can involve burning, shooting, or stabbing sensations that may come and go, this pain can be persistent if left untreated. Sufferers may also experience a tingling sensation which may be compared to paresthesia, a numb feeling is also a common symptom of Sciatica. 

The condition may also result in weakness of the affected area, making it difficult to walk. Moving about may also increase the severity of the symptoms, as could sharp motions resulting from a cough, or a sneeze.

Back pain is regularly reported as a symptom too but the pain is likely to be milder than that experienced in the lower body.

Can Sciatica be cured?

Even if you are 50+, the good news is that you can stop Sciatica from coming back permanently with treatment, exercise, or in severe cases, surgery as we will now discuss. 

How to cope with Sciatica pain

Typically, the symptoms of Sciatica can clear up in around four-to-six weeks but depending on the severity and the treatment, this can sometimes take longer. Below are ways you can help ease the pain by yourself, as well as a couple of hints on what not to do. 

  • You should try to carry on your usual activities as normal
  • Try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Ibuprofen.
  • Try to exercise regularly and keep mobile, start with gentle exercises as soon as you feel able and work your way up to more strenuous ones.
  • Apply a heat pack to painful areas, or take a hot bath. The use of a hot water bottle is not recommended.
  • When sleeping on your side, keep a cushion, or pillow between your legs. Or if you typically lie on your back, you can place several pillows underneath your knees.
  • You should not lie, or sit down for extended periods of time even if it is tempting to stay still because of the pain. Movement is one of the best ways to speed up the healing process.

Effective Sciatica Pain Relief

If you are experiencing pain on a regular basis then there are a number of options you may take to provide Sciatica relief. If the above methods are not helping to ease your pain then a medical professional may advise the following:

  • Medically approved stretches and exercises
  • They may prescribe stronger painkillers which are specifically used for Sciatica
  • Painkilling injections
  • They could refer you to a physiotherapist who can provide dedicated support
  • In severe cases, physiological support may also be recommended

When should I see a Sciatica Specialist?

If you have tried and failed to cope with Sciatica pain yourself and have not seen any long-lasting results following a medical consultation and physiotherapy then the next logical step would be to consider options that may provide long-term or even permanent relief. 

One method may be a procedure that can seal off some of the nerves in your back which would then stop them from sending any pain signals to your brain. 

If all else fails, then you may require Lumbar Decompression Surgery which treats compressed nerves in the lower region of the spine. This is only recommended when all previous treatment alternatives have been exhausted. This surgery can help relieve the symptoms of a range of back-related problems, including Sciatica. 

Decompression Surgery to relieve Sciatica

The types of Decompressive Surgery include; Laminectomy, Discectomy, and Spinal Fusion Surgery.

This surgery usually takes around one hour but on occasion, this can take much longer. The patient will be under general anesthetic during the operation and will not feel any pain during surgery. 

Following the surgery, most patients will be ready to leave the hospital in around 1-4 days, this will be dependent on how complex the surgery was and your condition before the surgery took place. You will usually be able to walk unassisted within 24 hours but anyone recovering from this surgery should avoid activities that put a lot of pressure on the legs and back for around 6 weeks. 

A person should be able to return to work within 4-6 weeks unless the role involves a lot of heavy lifting and manual labor. 

Decompression surgery can be extremely effective in terms of greatly reducing pain and improving overall mobility. Especially if a person has been suffering from Sciatica and has experienced regular weakness and pain in the legs.

However, the operation does come with an element of risk, as does all major surgery. Complications could include; infections, blood clotting, or damage to the spinal cord and the nerves.

We hope this information has been useful and helped to answer any questions you may have had about Sciatica and how to reduce pain.