When Surgery Is the Best Solution for Sciatica

When Surgery Is the Best Solution for Sciatica

No one ever wants to think about spine surgery. But you may reach the point where surgery is the best — or only — way to get relief from the sudden, shooting leg pain caused by sciatica.

Because surgery is usually the last resort, the team at Centennial Medical Group in Las Vegas, Nevada, wrote this blog to give you a quick rundown of the sciatica treatments you may receive and explain when it’s time to consider surgery.

Sciatica explained

Sciatica refers to the symptoms you experience when you have a pinched, or compressed, sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve leaves the spinal cord in your lower back and goes down both sides of your body, traveling through your buttocks and down your legs, all the way to your feet.

The nerve typically becomes compressed in the area where it leaves the spine. As a result, sciatica causes lower back pain along with its hallmark symptom: pain that shoots down one leg. Many patients describe the pain as a sharp, electric-shock pain that’s often debilitating.

Most cases of sciatica occur when degenerative conditions affect the spine’s structure and pinch the nerve. The most common causes include:

The sciatic nerve doesn’t have much room to spare as it passes through openings in the spinal vertebrae. As a result, the nerves get pinched when degenerative conditions protrude into one of the openings.

Conservative medical care comes first

Your initial sciatica treatment includes medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants, and physical therapy. Your physical therapist uses a range of techniques to stretch and strengthen your spine, improve movement and posture, and promote nerve decompression.

Interventional treatments may prevent surgery

As interventional pain management specialists, we offer a second level of care that can significantly ease pain that sticks around despite conservative medical care. Many patients find that interventional treatments help them avoid or postpone surgery. A few examples of interventional procedures include:

Epidural steroid injections

Using real-time imaging to see the nerves and tissues in your spine, we inject steroids into the epidural space surrounding your spine, carefully targeting the area near the sciatic nerve. With these epidural injections, the steroids flow through the epidural space and cover the nerve, reducing the inflammation that’s causing your pain.

Nerve blocks

A nerve block involves injecting an anesthetic near the nerve that’s carrying pain signals to your brain. The anesthetic blocks nerve transmissions, preventing your brain from getting the pain message. As a result, you don’t feel the pain.

Radiofrequency ablation

If a nerve block successfully relieves your sciatica, we can give you long-lasting pain relief by treating the same nerve with radiofrequency (RF) ablation. Heat from RF energy creates a wound on the nerve, blocking pain signals for nine months or longer.

Spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation uses mild electrical pulses to interrupt the pain signals traveling through your spinal cord to your brain. The device consists of a pulse generator connected to thin, flexible lead wires.

In a quick procedure, we implant the generator under your skin and then guide the lead wires through the space along your spine, placing them near the nerves relaying pain signals from anywhere in your body. The generator sends the electrical signal through the wires and into the nerves, relieving chronic pain.

Spinal cord stimulation gives some patients immediate pain relief and keeps easing the pain as long as they keep the device. This treatment also helps many patients reduce their need for medication.

When to consider surgery

Surgery dramatically eases your symptoms by decompressing the nerve. When simple tasks are hard to perform or when your symptoms interfere with your family, social, or work life, you should think about surgery.

It’s time to talk with us about surgery when:

We have extensive experience performing several minimally invasive spinal surgeries that effectively treat the pinched nerve and relieve sciatica. To learn more about your options, call 702-839-1203, or connect with us online today.

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