Avoiding sciatica surgery should be a top priority for virtually all patients, since operations can often do more damage than good. It is extremely common for patients to be herded like sheep towards completely unneeded surgery when they have persistent pain. It is a well established fact that virtually all back surgery is considered optional and worse still, the vast majority of procedures actually produce disappointing therapeutic outcomes across virtually all diagnoses.
Sciatica surgery is usually considered a curative method of care, which is advantageous over symptom-based conservative practices. This makes surgery a good choice for some patients. However, surgery also involves great risks and often targets coincidental spinal irregularities that are not even the correct source of sciatica symptoms. In these cases, the decision to undergo invasive care is catastrophic and sometimes even causes death or permanent injury.
This investigative essay focuses on when it is best to undergo sciatica surgery and when it is best to avoid it. Whenever possible, all patients are strongly cautioned that surgery should only be considered in extreme cases and even then should be carefully planned for and researched prior to going under the knife.
It is simple to explain why any patient would want to avoid sciatica surgery. First, surgery is a painful, horrific experience. It damages the body and disrupts life for an extended timeframe. Surgery often also requires extensive physical rehabilitation postoperatively.
Next, surgery is risky. All procedures demonstrate the possibility of causing injury or even death. Some of the worse types of surgical complications include infection, nerve damage and paralysis, as well as the possibility of creating general health emergencies, like strokes or heart attacks.
Surgery might be very expensive financially for people who do not enjoy comprehensive health insurance coverage of their procedure.
Finally, surgery demonstrates poor curative results for sciatica. Some procedures are much better than others for some diagnoses, so the efficacy of surgical intervention should be judged on a case-by-case basis. However, disc-related procedures generally provide the very worst results, while spinal and foraminal stenosis techniques provide the very best. However, when considering timelines of 7 years or more postoperatively, the majority of sciatica procedures fail to deliver lasting cures.
Most patients who undergo sciatica surgery do so simply because their doctor, who happens to be a surgeon and makes money from performing surgery, tells them that they should have an operation. This is extreme naivety! Patients should always do independent research and get more than one opinion before even considering surgical intervention for sciatica treatment.
Other patients are simply tired of long periods of expensive conservative care that has failed to produce a cure. These patients are also typically very naive, since they should have known that conservative care stands virtually no hope of actually curing sciatica. That is why it is called symptomatic treatment.
Finally, we receive several citations justifying surgery from patients saying that they had “nothing to lose”. Here, we really beg to differ in opinion. While we completely understand the frustration of fruitless care and continuing pain, things can always get worse and following an unsuccessfully surgery, this is exactly what can and often does happen. Yes, things can get worse!
If you are set on surgery, then please enjoy our dedicated article covering how to choose a sciatica surgeon.
There are some virtually universal pieces of advice that we can offer for patients who want to avoid sciatica surgery, but still enjoy good therapeutic results, preferably with a finite duration of treatment.
For patients with indicated conditions, nonsurgical spinal decompression offers the hope for a lasting cure without surgery. However, the conditions best suited for treatment include those which are also the most commonly misdiagnosed as the source of sciatica: herniated and degenerated discs. When the diagnosis is sound, then spinal decompression is a great option for enacting true sciatica relief.
Many cases of sciatica are not structurally-motivated. Therefore, it is always a good idea to get a full physical exam from a general internist to rule out systemic and non-musculoskeletal contributors to pseudo-sciatica expressions. Diabetes is now an epidemic cause of many chronic sciatica complaints that are mistakenly treated surgically.
Remember that all chronic pain syndromes, including sciatica, suffer psychosomatic influence and a significant percentage of cases are actually completely psychogenic. This mindbody causation does not make the pain any less real, but it doe make it much more difficult to cure. This is why we always recommend using some form of mindbody practice integrated into your traditional treatment routine to stop pain that is sourced within the mind.
We are proud that our proprietary pain relief program has allowed tens of thousands of patients to avoid sciatica surgery. The program is safe, effective and available to help you right now 24 hours day from anywhere in the world.