Everyone has heard of sciatica, but few people know what it actually is – or isn’t. Sciatica is not a spinal condition or disease, but rather a set of symptoms associated with a variety of spinal conditions. It’s characterized by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve. Unfortunately, sciatic episodes are painful and can diminish your quality of life.
Below, we’ll explore the topic of sciatica, what causes it, and how it’s treated. With the range of advanced sciatica remedies available today, you can attain relief from this form of nerve pain.
Sciatica pain moves along the sciatic nerve. As the longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve extends from the base of the spine through the hips and buttocks and down the legs to the tips of the feet. Considering the length of this nerve, sciatica pain can impact a large portion of the body.
If you’re struggling with undiagnosed nerve pain, you may wonder: What does sciatica feel like?
Symptoms of compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve can include:
In severe cases, sciatica can contribute to the development of cauda equina syndrome. This syndrome involves compression of the cauda equina nerves, which may lead to lost bowel and bladder function. This complication is rare and doesn’t affect most patients with sciatica.
Several different spinal conditions can cause sciatica, including:
When one of the intervertebral discs in the spine becomes damaged, the soft disc interior may protrude from the damaged exterior. This is known as a herniated or ruptured disc.
A herniated disc in the lower back (lumbar spine) can press against the spinal nerves or leak fluid into the spinal canal. This may result in pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Traumatic injuries can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve roots, or the sciatic nerve itself. Car accidents and falls are the most common traumatic injuries that can trigger sciatica.
Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of the vertebrae in the spine slips out of position and rests on the vertebra beneath it, most commonly as a result of spinal degeneration in older patients. This condition can cause sciatica if it impinges on any part of the sciatic nerve.
Lumbar spinal stenosis – the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back – can compress or irritate the sciatic nerve. This condition can occur as a result of spinal degeneration, osteoarthritis, and bone spurs.
When a patient experiences sciatica symptoms that don’t resolve after a few weeks of conservative therapies, the physician will likely conduct imaging tests to verify that the nerve pain is resulting from sciatica.
Key causes of sciatica including a slipped disc and bone spurs will appear on many types of imaging tests, including a CT scan, MRI scan, and x-ray. Since an x-ray is much faster and more affordable than either a CT or MRI scan, it’s likely to be ordered first.
Sciatica can be categorized by the length of time that the symptoms persist, or by the legs (one or both) that are impacted.
When sciatica is categorized by the duration of the pain, it’s said to be either acute or chronic.
When sciatica is categorized by the legs that are affected, it’s said to be either alternating or bilateral.
Left untreated, sciatica pain may worsen, eventually leading to permanent nerve damage. This could lead to chronic pain in other areas of the body. With this in mind, it’s essential for patients to receive prompt treatment for sciatica pain, even if it appears to be a mild case.
For sciatica treatment, physicians usually begin with several months of conservative treatment before considering surgery.
Conservative, non-surgical treatments for sciatica typically include physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and low-impact exercises. Alternative methods such as massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, and acupressure may also be employed.
In addition to the non-invasive treatments listed above, there are several ways that you can adjust your lifestyle to enhance your sciatica recovery, including:
In severe cases of sciatica involving unrelenting and/or debilitating symptoms, non-invasive treatments and lifestyle adjustments may fail to provide relief. In these cases, surgery for sciatica, such as a discectomy or foraminotomy, may be required.
Spinal decompression surgery relieves the pressure on the sciatic nerve and is often paired with spine fusion surgery to stabilize the spine. During fusion, bone graft material is placed in between the affected vertebrae, causing them to slowly fuse into a single bone.
Unfortunately, spinal fusion eliminates the independent mobility of the fused vertebrae. This limits patients’ mobility after the procedure while requiring an extensive recovery process.
Cases of acute sciatica typically resolve within four to six weeks with rest and at-home remedies. However, chronic sciatica can take much longer to fully resolve, depending on its cause.
If chronic sciatica doesn’t require surgery, it may go away within four to twelve weeks of rest and rehabilitation. For sciatica cases that do require surgery, the recovery process after the operation may last for four to six weeks. But, if spinal fusion is performed, the patient may not fully heal for six months to a year.
Given that spinal fusion greatly prolongs the sciatica recovery process, many patients seek out other options. Thankfully, there’s a spinal fusion alternative that’s proven to improve clinical outcomes, shorten the recovery process, and preserve the patient’s natural range of motion in the individual vertebrae: the TOPS Posterior Arthroplasty procedure.
TOPS is one of the exciting advances bringing new hope to patients with moderate to severe spinal conditions who aren’t responding to conservative treatments. Premia Spine, the creator of the TOPS System, is at the forefront of advanced surgical treatments for spinal disorders.
We encourage anyone with lower back pain and sciatica symptoms to investigate all their treatment options before undergoing spinal fusion. With the range of cutting-edge therapies available today, you can achieve sciatica relief without the limitations and drawbacks associated with fusion.
Sciatica is a prevalent cause of chronic pain around the globe. This nerve condition can diminish your ability to get through the day comfortably and participate in physical activities.
Surgery may be recommended in persistent cases of sciatica that consistently worsen and won’t respond to non-surgical methods. Decompressive laminectomy is a type of spinal decompression surgery that can cure sciatica pain.
Here, we’ll discuss how decompressive laminectomy can eradicate sciatica pain and help you overcome chronic nerve pain.
The sciatic nerve is the biggest nerve in the body. It extends from the lower back to the buttocks and stretches down both legs. If the sciatic nerve is damaged or irritated, sciatica can result. Any instance of pain that starts in the lower back and moves down one or both legs is considered sciatica.
Sciatica impacts an estimated 10% to 40% of the population. It can be diagnosed with an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or EMG, along with a full physical exam and medical history.
The most frequent cause of sciatica is a slipped disc. Also called a herniated or bulging disc, a slipped disc occurs when a spinal disc tears. The jelly-like interior of the disc can protrude from the tear in the disc’s exterior and press on nearby nerves, including the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine.
Other potential causes and risk factors of sciatica include:
The telltale sign of sciatica is lower back pain that radiates to the buttocks and descends down each leg to the calves. The pain can range from achy to burning to sharp and even “electric”. Oftentimes, sciatica pain worsens after long periods of sitting and even abrupt movements like sneezing or coughing.
Sciatica symptoms can also include:
Spinal stenosis is a condition defined by the gradual reduction of space in the spinal canal, and it’s a common cause of sciatica pain. Lumbar spinal stenosis is one of the most frequently diagnosed spinal conditions today.
If spinal stenosis affects the lumbar (lower) spine, it can impact the sciatic nerve and increase the patient’s risk of developing sciatica pain.
When the spinal canal becomes narrower due to spinal stenosis, the vertebrae can begin to press on nearby nerves. If stenosis occurs in the lumbar spine, which is where the sciatic nerve begins, the vertebrae may place stress on the sciatic nerve.
The pressure of the narrowed spinal canal on the sciatic nerve can lead to irritation and injury, which can trigger sciatica pain.
Decompressive laminectomy is a surgical procedure during which the lamina, which comprises the roof of the spinal canal, is taken out of the spine. This creates more room in the spine to combat symptoms of spinal compression.
One of the main applications of decompressive laminectomy is for sciatica pain induced by spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine.
When the lamina is removed in decompressive lumbar laminectomy, it creates significantly more space for the spinal nerves and the sciatic nerve. This relieves the pressure on the nerves for relief from pain, weakness, tingling, and numbness.
Once the stress is taken off of the sciatic nerve in decompressive laminectomy, the sciatic nerve has the space that it needs to heal.
With more room in the spinal canal, the tissues surrounding the nerve can receive ample blood flow, along with the oxygen and nutrients that the blood supplies. This allows for effective regeneration of the damaged nerve.
Laminectomy is typically done under general anesthesia, meaning that the patient is out cold throughout the procedure. As a result, the patient won’t feel any pain or discomfort during the surgery.
First, your surgeon will create an incision over a specific area of the spine. Then, the surgeon can remove the lamina to free up additional space in the spine.
If needed, the surgeon may perform a discectomy, a foraminotomy, or remove a bone spur. In a discectomy, the surgeon removes a slipped disc. In foraminotomy, the surgeon broadens the passage that holds the spinal nerve root.
Spinal fusion is a common step in decompressive laminectomy to give the spine stability. During spinal fusion, two vertebrae are fused and eventually become one.
Although spinal fusion can prevent spinal insecurity, it significantly lengthens the recovery process and can reduce spinal flexibility. Spinal implants like the TOPS System are an alternative to spinal fusion that allows for less downtime and a greater range of motion in the spine.
Patients who need spinal fusion in decompressive laminectomy for spinal stability should consider spinal implants as an alternative. Spinal implants like the Premia Spine TOPS System can reestablish stability in the spine without compromising the patient’s range of motion.
In contrast to spinal fusion, the TOPS System stabilizes the spine while preserving the patient’s freedom of motion. The device provides a controlled range of motion in the lumbar spine so that the patient can safely enjoy their regular activities.
The TOPS System allows patients to return to their full range of movement immediately after decompressive laminectomy. With spinal fusion, patients typically need to remain in the hospital for a few days after the surgery and may need several weeks or even months to recover.
By opting for the TOPS spinal implant instead of spinal fusion in decompressive laminectomy, patients can retain movement in the spine and reduce their recovery time for the procedure. To learn more about this innovative spinal device, contact Premia Spine today.
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.
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:
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.
This is the big day, the day your spinal surgery will be performed and your back condition – be it facet arthrosis or lumbar radiculopathy – gets effective treatment. You’ve had your pre-operative appointment a day or so ago, and had your pre-operative physical assessment and other pre-operative workup. You’ve also met with an anesthesiologist team member to talk about your anesthesia.
Of course you’ve followed your orthopedic surgeon’s directions for the night before your back surgery. You didn’t eat or drink anything after midnight. You’ve consulted with your doctor about medications you are taking, and you’ve complied with all your physician’s directives. You prepared whatever you will bring with you last night, so you don’t feel rushed in getting to the facility at the appointed time. If there’s a keepsake that’s important that you want to bring with you – a ring for example – leave it at home.
If your family is coming with you, you already know where the waiting area is – they’ve probably seen it themselves – and you don’t have to worry about them. The staff will make sure they’re kept informed and comfortable. Following the surgery you will be taken to a recovery room. Much of what happens after the surgery – whether performed for a pinched nerve or an injury of the spinal cord – depends on factors including the severity of your condition, the effort you put into your post-operative physical therapy, and the surgical treatment you selected. Today advanced spine treatments are providing new options with better outcomes for some spinal surgery patients. Not all orthopedic surgeons are familiar with fully approved advanced surgical options such as the TOPS™ (Total Posterior Solution) System. TOPS is an approved implant that provides clinically proven superior outcomes to spinal fusion back surgery after spinal decompression therapy has been performed. Moreover, the spine’s natural range of motion is preserved with the TOPS System, unlike a spinal fusion procedure, which eliminates independent motion of the joined vertebrae, and can lead to deterioration of the adjacent vertebrae.
What’s most important to remember about your day of surgery, is all the care and thought you, your surgeon and your loved ones put into determining the best course of action. You’ve prepared, gotten ready, and now you’re finally moving forward! Congratulations!
Choosing a spinal surgeon is among the most important medical decisions a patient can make. A spinal surgeon does more than perform an operation. A spinal surgeon consults with you, explains options and answers questions, and plans your treatment and recovery. You need to trust your spine surgeon, and to feel free to discuss all medical matters frankly.
You should choose a spinal surgeon who is board certified or board eligible, and trained in a fellowship program. If possible, choose a surgeon who specializes in the area of the spine that requires treatment– for example, a lumbar spinal surgery specialist if your problem is in the lower back. Alternatively, choose a spine surgeon who specializes in treating the specific condition affecting you, such as spondylolisthesis or spinal cord injuries.
Recent years have witnessed tremendous advances in treatment of spinal conditions, such as minimally invasive procedures that provide better outcomes than traditional open back surgery. It is essential that you choose a back surgeon that has experience with advanced procedures, to ensure you have access to the very latest treatments and the greatest spectrum of surgical options. For example, surgery to treat spinal stenosis, slipped disc and a variety of other conditions that can result in pinched nerves, have often utilized spinal fusion back surgery as a means of stabilizing the spine, following spinal decompression therapy. Today the TOPS ™ (Total Posterior Solution) System provides a clinically proven superior alternative to spinal fusion surgery. Moreover, the TOPS implant preserves the full range of movement of the spine’s individual vertebrae, whereas spinal fusion eliminates the spine’s natural motion between fused vertebral segments. Examples like this illustrate why it’s important to work with a spine surgeon who can offer a complete range of surgical options. Thoroughly investigate all your treatment options as well as the qualifications of the specialists you consider working with, and you’ll be sure to make a wise choice when it comes to selecting a spinal surgeon.