Are you struggling with the decision of whether or not to undergo surgery for sciatica? Inflammation of the sciatic nerve in the lower back results in sciatica, which causes pain to radiate down one or both legs. 

This condition affects over 40% of people during their lives. The medical term for this condition is lumbar radiculopathy, which involves the pinching of a nerve as it exits the spine. Do you need help determining whether sciatica surgery is right for you? Do you have questions about the potential risks and benefits of the procedure?

At Coastal Orthopedics, we understand the complexity of deciding whether surgery is a suitable treatment option for sciatica. Important questions must be considered before a treatment approach is chosen.

Do You Know What Causes Sciatica?

Numerous factors can contribute to sciatica, and the treatment method may vary accordingly. The effectiveness of surgery depends on the underlying cause of sciatic nerve inflammation. Possible causes include:

  • A herniated disc in the lower back
  • Spinal stenosis, characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal
  • Spondylolisthesis, involving slipped and misaligned vertebrae
  • Spinal degeneration due to wear and tear, leading to bone spurs
  • The presence of a cyst or tumor in the spine

Although surgery can be an effective treatment option for many causes of sciatica, it is usually not the first choice. The type of surgery needed depends on the underlying issue.

Additionally, piriformis syndrome, which occurs when the piriformis muscle in the buttock irritates the sciatic nerve, may result in symptoms similar to sciatica. However, this condition rarely requires surgery.

How Does Sciatica Affect Your Life?

Sciatica pain can often be felt from the lower back down to the foot, causing discomfort that can range from mild to severe. This pain can be intermittent and lasts for days or weeks, making routine tasks challenging. Activities such as sitting, driving, and playing sports may become painful due to sciatica.

Considering sciatica surgery, it’s important to consider how this persistent pain affects your daily life, including work, hobbies, social interactions, and relationships. Chronic sciatica can progress from nerve inflammation to nerve damage, leading to numbness, tingling, and leg weakness. Delaying treatment may prolong recovery and increase the risk of permanent nerve damage.

What are the Treatments for Sciatica?

There are various ways to manage sciatica that don’t involve surgery. These methods are tailored to each individual’s needs and the underlying cause of their pain. They include taking pain relief medications, having steroid injections, undergoing physical therapy, aquatic therapy, meditation, nerve blocks, and more. It is important to understand that what works for one person may not work for another.

When seeking treatment for sciatica, it is recommended to consult with different specialists beyond your primary care physician. Rehabilitation physicians or pain medicine specialists can offer alternative perspectives and treatment options. Since pain experiences are unique, finding the right specialist and treatment combination is often crucial to effective management.

What to Expect After Sciatica Surgery

Sciatica can be managed through various non-surgical methods customized to suit individual needs and underlying causes. These methods include pain relief medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, aquatic therapy, meditation, nerve blocks, and more. It’s important to understand that what works for one person may not work for another.

“When seeking treatment for sciatica, it’s advisable to consult with different specialists apart from your primary care physician,”

says Eric B. Sundberg, M.D., a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in surgery of the spine, degenerative spinal conditions, and deformities including scoliosis and kyphosis. 

Rehabilitation physicians or pain medicine specialists can provide alternative perspectives and treatment options. Since pain experiences are unique to each individual, finding the right specialist and treatment combination is important for effective management.

What are the Benefits and Risks of Sciatica Surgery?

Sciatica surgery, like many surgeries that require general anesthesia, carries certain risks, such as heart attack, blood clots, and infection. Due to the delicate tissues surrounding a nerve, nerve injury is also possible.

Moreover, specific risk factors related to your medical history, lifestyle, or health condition, commonly known as comorbidities, may increase surgical risks or impact the procedure’s success in alleviating sciatica pain. Factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and the length of time sciatica pain has been experienced before surgery have been found to influence outcomes.

It is worth noting that most people experience up to a 90% reduction in pain levels following sciatica surgery. Therefore, it is essential for individuals considering sciatica surgery to work closely with a surgeon who considers physical symptoms and various other factors that could affect the decision-making process.

Next Steps for Sciatica

If you’re considering sciatica surgery, there are many factors to consider. You’ll need to consider the cause of your symptoms, treatment goals, and risk tolerance. At Coastal Orthopedics, we’re here to help you make informed decisions about your health. 

Our team provides personalized care and guidance to help you find the best options for sciatica treatment. If you’re ready to take the first step towards lasting relief and an improved quality of life, schedule an appointment with Dr. Sundberg at Coastal Orthopedics today.