Sciatica affects some 40% of Americans during their lifetimes, making it one of the most common back-related problems. The condition is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve root in the spinal canal, which may be called a “pinched” nerve or an “impingement.”
The sciatic nerve is the longest in your body. The root is located in the lumbar (lower back) spine, and the nerve splits into two branches near the tailbone. Each one travels through your buttocks, down the outside of your leg on the affected side, and into your foot.
Sciatica is a form of radicular (radiating) pain, so the pain, weakness, and numbness you experience can happen along the nerve’s extended route.
At Interventional Pain Center in Legacy Office Park, Norman, Oklahoma, interventional pain medicine physician Dr. James Stephens offers many different treatment options for sciatica, ranging from conservative to surgical. He specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures, and he’s found they help people struggling with their sciatic pain. Here’s when and why you should consider this option.
There are many different causes of sciatica, and treating the underlying cause is essential to relieving symptoms. That’s why it’s crucial to get a professional diagnosis. Sciatica is uncommon in the under-20 population, except when it’s due to a traumatic injury. The most common other causes include:
Two of the most common causes of a pinched sciatic nerve occur more frequently as you age. The first is bulging or herniated discs and degenerative disc disease. The cushiony material between the vertebrae loses moisture, and the disc flattens out and/or cracks. A flattened disc or the inner disc gel pushes into the spinal canal and presses on the sciatic nerve root.
The second cause is bone spurs, bony growths that develop when the bones’ cartilage wears away, and the vertebrae rub against each other; the extensions also push into the canal, pinching the nerve root.
Excess weight puts excess pressure on your spine and spinal nerve roots, and a 2014 study found an association between being overweight or obese and developing sciatica. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are the best ways to help you shed weight and reduce your pain while improving your cardiovascular and overall health at the same time.
Sitting at your desk all day, especially if your workstation isn’t ergonomically designed, is one of the worst things you can do for your back and sciatic nerve. Poor posture and prolonged sitting stress every part of your spine and put pressure on the nerve roots.
In addition, jobs where you routinely bend, twist, or lift heavy objects increase your risk for sciatica. To protect your spine, lift from your knees, not your back.
Sciatica can go away on its own, but it often doesn’t. However, it generally responds well to conservative treatments, which is where we always start. We target both your symptoms and the underlying problem(s) that causes them, using:
We also provide physical therapy referrals. The regimen of stretches and strengthening exercises can help your body heal and regain its former strength and range of motion. If you’re in too much pain to do the exercises, an epidural steroid or other pain-relieving injection can reduce symptoms long enough that you can take part in the program.
If you’ve tried conservative measures and nothing has helped, Dr. Stephens may recommend minimally invasive surgery, which can take many forms.
A laminectomy addresses problems such as bone spurs or a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis). Dr. Stephens removes the part of the vertebra(e) producing the symptoms, thereby eliminating pressure on your nerves, relieving pain, and restoring your range of motion.
In this procedure, Dr. Stephens cuts back or removes a herniated disc, pushing on the sciatic nerve and relieving pressure on the root.
We use the Vertiflex procedure to treat patients whose sciatica results from lower lumbar stenosis (LSS), a spinal canal narrowing that can impinge on nerves. It provides a clinically proven solution that delivers long-term relief from the leg and back pain associated with LSS and sciatica. This evidence-based procedure is supported by data from patients who reported successful outcomes up to five years after the surgery.
Are you struggling with the pain and discomfort of sciatica? Interventional Pain Center can help. To learn more or schedule a consultation with Dr. Stephens, call the office at 405-759-8407 or use our online booking tool today.