Typical sciatica symptoms usually occur on one side of your body. They might affect your shoulder, arm, or leg. In more severe cases of spinal stenosis, the condition could affect the exiting nerves on both sides of the spinal cord, causing sciatica symptoms on both sides of your body. This can cause pain that becomes debilitating. You might experience symptoms such as:
- Sharp, needle-like pain
- Muscle weakness
In order to accurately diagnose sciatica, your spine specialist will need to take you through a workup that could include the following:
- Getting your medical history, including an assessment of your current symptoms as well as any treatments or care you’ve received in the past.
- A thorough physical examination. This will help your doctor see any symptoms such as muscle weakness, pain, or signs of spinal cord damage.
- Tests including CT scans, MRIs, and x-rays. These give the spine specialists a detailed, three-dimensional view of your spinal structure so they can identify abnormalities that could be the cause of your sciatica nerve pain.
Treatment Options For Sciatica
For many of our patients, surgical solutions are not required in order to get relief from a herniated disc and sciatica nerve pain. Clinical studies show that many patients find relief without surgery in four to six months.
Non-Operative Sciatica Treatment Options
- Cold and hot compresses on the affected area for 24 to 48 hours
- Pain medications including anti-inflammatories, narcotic pain killers (only in severe cases), and muscle relaxers
- Epidural steroid injections to help pinpoint the cause of your pain and provide pain relief
- Physical therapy exercises that stretch, strengthen, and massage the back
Least-Invasive Surgical Treatment Options
If the conservative treatments listed above don’t work to ease your pain and evidence is supported by testing and imaging, your doctor might recommend surgical treatment. These sciatica pain relief options have a 90% success rate when treating bulging discs and pinched nerves.
- Endoscopic Discectomy (transforaminal or interlaminar): Making an incision that’s only ¼ inch long, the surgeon enters the spinal canal without damaging the surrounding muscles. After observing the damaged disc, they work to remove the damage using a high-definition camera. Most patients are able to go back to work within a week. You’ll be given conscious sedation and kept comfortable during the procedure.
- Endoscopic Foraminalplasty: This procedure uses endoscopic techniques to decompress the area where the nerve is exiting the spinal cord, relieving the pressure and the painful symptoms the patient is experiencing.
- Endoscopic Laminotomy: During the Endoscopic Laminotomy procedure, the surgeon creates an opening of the lamina above and below the painful disc to relieve nerve compression.
Recovery from Least-Invasive Surgical Treatments
Most patients who undergo these procedures are able to get out of bed about an hour after the surgery is finished. Once they are cleared by our team, they can go home. Some patients might experience a small amount of pain at the incision site, which can be controlled with pain medication. Your doctor will give you tips on how to care for yourself at home as well as exercises you can do to prevent your back from becoming stiff. You’ll be able to increase your activity gradually after resting for a few days. Your doctor will also give you a timeframe as to when you can start activities such as walking, driving, yard work, and sporting activities. If you experience an increase in your pain levels or have any concerns, you should contact our office right away.