Is Surgery the Best Option for Sciatica?

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Sciatica is a type of persistent pain that affects the lower back, hip and outside of the leg. It is typically caused by the compression of a spinal nerve located in one of the lower vertebrae. The compression is often a result of a degenerated vertebral disk. One of the main methods for treating severe sciatica is surgery that is performed by a spine care doctor.

Discectomy Surgery for Sciatica

In a discectomy surgery, your spine doctor removes all or part of the herniated disc that is compressing your sciatic nerve. A micro-discectomy is another option. This method uses a minimally invasive technique. The recovery time for the micro-discectomy is shorter than that of the discectomy method, but not all patients may be a candidate. Your spine doctor can determine which of these options might work for you.

Laminectomy or Laminotomy Surgery for Sciatica

Another surgical technique used for sciatica is laminectomy. This type of surgery involves removing the entire lamina of the area of the spine where the nerve is being compressed. A laminotomy is when the surgeon removes the outcroppings of the outer layer of bony material of your spine. This procedure is ideal for patients with a small amount of space between their vertebral discs. If your sciatica was caused by a pinched nerve, your spine doctor might suggest this option.

When Sciatica Surgery Is a Good Option

Most people with sciatica respond well to non-surgical care provided by a spine doctor. However, there are times when conservative measures do not provide enough relief from sciatica symptoms. Surgical treatment for sciatica is a good option when the spinal cord compression has caused you to have bowel or bladder dysfunction. It is also a good option if you are having other neurological symptoms, such as weakness or involuntary muscle twitches in your legs. If your sciatica has become severe and non-surgical treatments are no longer working for you, your spine doctor may recommend one of the surgical methods for relief.

Recovery from Sciatica Surgery

Decompressing the nerve that is causing sciatica is the goal of sciatica surgery. After your spine doctor performs surgery, you will have restricted activity so that your body can heal. You may be given over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers for up to four weeks. You will also have regular checkups with the spine doctor to monitor your symptoms and your healing process after surgery.