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Can My Sciatica Be Managed Without Needing Surgery?

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Sciatica is a common cause of lower back pain. In fact, it’s so common, the CDC says up to 40% of Americans will experience it at least once during their lives.

Unlike some other causes of back pain that almost always require a surgical solution, sciatica can often be relieved nonsurgically using conservative options to relieve pain and help prevent it from recurring.

As leading orthopaedic spine specialists in South Jersey, Evan O’Brien, MD, and Chris Hennessey, PA-C, help our patients at Woodbury Spine find relief for the aching, burning symptoms of sciatica, providing comprehensive, customized treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs. Here’s how they can help you relieve your sciatica symptoms without surgery.

Sciatica 101

Sciatica is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, a long nerve that exits your spine in your lower back. The longest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve divides into two branches, with one branch traveling down one leg.

Sciatic nerve compression happens for different reasons. Some common causes or risk factors for sciatica include:

  • Poor posture

  • Being overweight

  • Poor sleeping habits

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Standing for long periods of time

  • Diabetes

  • Smoking

  • Age-related spine changes, including arthritis

Jobs that require you to sit or stand for long periods or do a lot of repetitive lifting can also increase your risk of developing sciatica nerve pain.

Lower back pain is one common symptom of sciatica, but it’s not the only one. Because it involves your sciatic nerve, sciatica often causes symptoms in your legs and buttocks, too, including:

  • Pain radiating into your buttock or down your leg

  • Numbness or tingling in your leg or foot

  • Burning sensations in your back, buttock, or leg

Many people find their symptoms are worse when they lie down at night, making it hard for them to get a good night’s sleep. Over time, severe untreated sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage and even interfere with walking.

Sciatica can be treated without surgery

The good news about sciatica is that in most cases, it can be treated without surgery. In fact, up to 90% of people find relief for their symptoms without having back surgery, with full recovery taking several weeks in most cases.

The primary goals of sciatica treatment are to relieve painful symptoms and reduce or eliminate nerve compression and inflammation in your lower back. Our team tailors each treatment based on your symptoms, your lifestyle, and other factors to help you feel better as quickly as possible.

Many patients benefit from a combination of medical treatment and simple lifestyle changes.

Your treatment might include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines

  • Medicine to relax your muscles and prevent spasms

  • Ice and heat therapy

  • Physical therapy

  • Gentle stretching

  • Activity modification

  • Injections to reduce inflammation and nerve irritation

Quitting smoking, losing excess weight, and incorporating more activity into your daily routine are other ways to optimize your health and keep your back strong and flexible.

Surgery typically is recommended only when these conservative options don’t provide relief for your symptoms. Most patients who have surgery have underlying issues, like bone spurs, “torn” discs, or degenerative spine conditions, including spinal arthritis or spinal stenosis.

Learn more about sciatica treatment

Sciatica symptoms can interfere with just about every aspect of your life, including your sleep. If you’re suffering from painful sciatica, call Woodbury Spine or book an appointment online today, and learn how our team can help.

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