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Sciatica: When Is Surgery Necessary?

Many thousands of people experience sciatica pain each year. Many of them seek medical treatment due to persistent, worsening, or recurrent pain. The term sciatica describes compression of the sciatic nerve. When this large nerve, which travels down the buttocks and backs of the legs, is compressed, symptoms may range from mildly frustrating to debilitating. While nonsurgical remedies like stretching and modalities including medication, massage, and physical therapy are often employed to manage sciatica symptoms, some circumstances call for surgical intervention. We discuss them here, as well as what surgical options are considered ideal for this problem.

Does sciatica always require surgery?

People who have had sciatica symptoms want relief as quickly as possible. Surgery is not always the necessary option but it may be the option that brings relief sooner than others. A spinal surgeon determines the appropriateness of various procedures based on the findings of a comprehensive evaluation. This includes a consultation to understand the nature of pain, how long it has gone on, and its intensity. A physical examination along with diagnostic imaging provides a glimpse into the origin of nerve compression. Surgery may be recommended if sciatica is causing severe pain, numbness, and weakness in one leg. It is also considered when nonsurgical treatments have not achieved a satisfactory outcome. Finally, if sciatica symptoms are interfering with daily activities, surgery may be the best solution.

What is sciatica surgery?

Sciatica surgery is not one procedure. This type of nerve compression may be helped by a few different procedures. Which procedure is ideal is determined by our consultation and examination. Some of the techniques that are considered include:

  • Microdiscectomy surgery, a procedure that relieves nerve compression by removing some or all of the disc material that is pressing on the nerve root.
  • Lumbar laminectomy, a procedure that creates more space for the nerve to pass through the spinal column via the removal of the lamina, the back of the affected vertebra.
  • Foraminotomy, a procedure that removes part of the foramen of a vertebra to allow more space for the nerve to pass through the spine.

Spinal procedures to resolve sciatica pain are usually performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Patients often experience immediate relief from sciatica pain and enjoy lasting comfort for years after their procedure.

Princeton Neurological surgery has multiple offices to serve you, including Hamilton, Paramus, and more. Contact us today to schedule your consultation for sciatica treatment.

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