Sciatica refers to a neurological condition of the lower spine. Patients often describing radiating pain and numbness from the lower back down the legs. Sciatica may also feel “sharp” such as a leg cramp, and may last for days at a time.
What Causes Sciatica Pain?
The most common causes of sciatica pain includes a herniated disc, bone spur on the spine or narrowing of the spine (also known as spinal stenosis) which compresses part of the nerve. Sciatica most often affects patients between the ages of 30 and 50 years, due to natural deterioration of the vertebral discs in the lower spine.
How Do Neurosurgeons Treat Sciatica?
Neurosurgeons employ a myriad of treatments, protocols, and procedures to alleviate Sciatica Pain. The best strategy often includes a physician diagnosing the severity of the sciatica pain and the primary cause. First, the physician will want to examine patients thoroughly, testing their leg strength and checking for any loss of sensation in the legs and feet. Physicians will most likely order an MRI scan or CT scan of the patients back to confirm the diagnosis and target the exact disc causing the pain. From there, the neurosurgeon and patient determine the best treatment plan – which often begins with conservative measures and progress up from there depending on the patient’s response to the treatment.
What Conservative Treatments Do Most Neurosurgeons Employ For Sciatica?
Approximately 80% to 90% of patients suffering from Sciatica will heal on their own over time without surgery within some weeks. Patients may find that applying heat to the lower back and staying active reduces Sciatica pain. Neurosurgeons employ a myriad of treatments, protocols, and procedures to alleviate Sciatica Pain. Any patient-centered approach for sciatica pain should begin with conservative treatments, which may include Physical Therapy, NSAID medications, and Epidural Steroid Injections. When those protocols fail to alleviate the patient of their pain, the neurosurgeon may suggest a minimally invasive surgical intervention.
What Surgeries Do Neurosurgeons Utilize to Alleviate Sciatica Pain?
Neurosurgeons who focus on minimally-invasive techniques most often perform a Microdiscectomy. In this procedure, A Neurosurgeon will open a small incision in the patients back at the level of the affected disc. They will then arthroscopically remove the piece of the spinal disc pressing on the spinal canal and any other fragments putting pressure on the nerve. More serious cases of Sciatica may require neurosurgeons to perform a laminectomy with discectomy. In a laminectomy, the neurosurgeon will remove a section of the spinal vertebrae to relieve pressure from the lumbar spinal column. If needed, the surgeon may also remove part of the vertebral disc to give more space to the spinal column.
What Does the Recovery From a Microdiscectomy Look Like?
Recovery from a Microdiscectomy often includes 4-6 weeks of physical therapy as well as rest from strenuous activities, such as running or lifting heavy objects. Physicians will most likely require patients to refrain from bending, twisting and other movements that put unnecessary strain on the lumbar spine.