Many people put up with the hallmark signs of sciatica (lower back and shooting leg pain), hoping their symptoms will improve. But for 15-20%, the underlying problem doesn’t heal and the only way to get relief from the pain is with expert treatment from Richard B. Kim, MD.
Dr. Kim specializes in a range of treatments that repair the cause of your sciatica and help you return to an active lifestyle. This blog post gives you a quick rundown of the most common sciatica treatment options.
Sciatica refers to the symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve is pinched. This problem most often arises from a condition in your spine, such as:
- A herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Bone spurs
- Degenerative disc disease
These conditions cause physical changes that push against the nerve where it leaves the spinal cord in your lower back. The pinched nerve causes the classic sciatica symptoms: lower back pain and pain that travels along the nerve as it goes through your buttock, down your leg, and into your foot.
Sciatica only affects one leg, causing a sudden, shooting pain that patients describe as a debilitating, electric-shock pain. However, the intensity of your pain may vary. You could also feel burning, tingling, or numbness in your leg and foot.
Though not as common as a spine condition, you can also develop sciatica when the nerve is pinched by muscle spasms in the buttocks. If this is the underlying cause, the condition is called piriformis syndrome instead of sciatica. Piriformis syndrome causes buttock pain rather than lower back pain, but the leg symptoms are the same.
Like all spine problems, sciatica is initially treated with nonsurgical options. Your individualized care plan depends on variables such as the severity of your symptoms, when the pain started, and whether you already tried conservative treatments.
Our goal is to relieve your symptoms, promote healing when possible, prevent further injury, and recommend treatments that repair the underlying condition. As Dr. Kim creates your customized treatment, he may include:
If your sciatica has recently appeared, self-care may give the problem time to heal. Changing your activities, applying ice or heat, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and following a stretching regimen may be enough to relieve your sciatica.
If your sciatica is a long-lasting problem or you have severe symptoms, Dr. Kim may give you prescription-strength NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, or steroids. Steroids relieve your pain by reducing swelling and inflammation in and around the sciatic nerve.
You may take oral steroids, but an epidural steroid injection delivers faster and longer-lasting relief for chronic sciatica. During an epidural steroid injection, Dr. Kim uses real-time imaging to precisely place the medication at the irritated sciatic nerve.
Interventional treatments often do a great job of relieving sciatica that persists after conservative medical care. These treatments are highly effective because they directly target the sciatic nerve.
Epidural steroid injections are one type of interventional therapy. However, Dr. Kim specializes in several effective therapies, such as facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, nerve blocks, and radiofrequency ablation.
Minimally invasive spine surgery
When conservative options fail to improve your sciatica symptoms, you may need to consider minimally invasive spine surgery.
During minimally invasive surgery, Dr. Kim makes a small incision and keeps the surrounding muscles intact by gently inserting a tube-shaped protractor that pushes the muscles out of the way. Then he does your surgery using specialized instruments that fit through the tube.
The type of surgery you need depends on the underlying problem. For example, you may need a discectomy to treat a herniated disc or one of several types of decompression surgery to take pressure off the pinched nerve. In some cases, he may need to perform a spinal fusion after your decompression procedure.
Don’t wait to get relief from sciatica. To learn more about your treatment options, call Richard B. Kim, MD, or request an appointment online today.