Emergency sciatica treatment is rarely needed, but is often sought and is usually incredibly unfulfilling. Many patients go to emergency rooms at their local hospital during flare-ups of severe symptoms, especially if they have not suffered sciatica previously. In a few instances, sciatica can accompany other expressions that are truly medical emergencies and often necessitate drastic interventions, like sudden spinal surgery.
Emergency is certainly a relative term in the modern healthcare sector. What qualifies as a health crisis to a patient does not often jive with the same definition embraced by hospital emergency care units. This leads to a disconnect between patient and care facility and creates bad blood that can taint a patient’s view of healthcare as a whole.
This focused essay delves into the times when sciatica is a medical emergency and when it is just a terrible misery of no particular consequence. We will also discuss why emergency room care is so dissatisfying to patients with acute sciatica expressions.
Sciatica, no matter how severe, is not a threat to life. It may feel as if the pain will kill you, but it won’t. Emergency trauma units do not regard sciatica as a medical priority and will often not be able to provide any care beyond simply pharmaceutical treatment via oral route or injection.
There are some times when sciatica can exist due to circumstances that are legitimate medical emergencies. These scenarios may involve severe cauda equina syndrome or spinal cord compression that results in sciatica expressions, along with more significant symptoms like incontinence, sexual dysfunction and the inability to stand or walk. In cases of compression of the spinal cord or cauda equina, emergency intervention might be recommended in the form of immediate surgical intervention. This is particularly true if the symptoms follow a recent severe trauma, such as a fall or car accident.
Hospital emergency rooms (at least in America) are generally the worst places to go for treatment of any musculoskeletal or neurological pain syndrome. Most patients will be made to wait a long time before even being admitted into the unit and then will have to wait even longer in an examination room for 2 minutes of attention from a doctor-in-training or physician’s assistant.
Once examined, unless there is some medical emergency such as the circumstances detailed above, patients will be treated using some drugs and told to follow-up with their own doctor. The hospital will generally not provide imaging services unless trauma has been suffered and will usually not make any diagnosis to put the patient’s mind at ease. Instead, most patients will wait for many, many hours and leave the hospital still in pain and incredibly frustrated, as well. It is for this reason that we caution patients to consider their options before seeking emergency care at their local ER, unless it is an actual emergency as defined by accepted facility standards in their area.
Sciatica can be a torment. However, it falls short of being an emergency, at least according to your local doctor. Therefore, even with severe pain, you must learn to manage on your own now or eventually. It is for this reason that being a knowledgeable patient is so important. The more you understand sciatica, the better prepared you will be to cope with it and cure it.
Emergency rooms in other parts of the world might be very different than those in the US. Maybe the local ER is just the perfect place to go for treatment where you live. If so, consider yourself very lucky, since Americans and many Europeans have a difficult time finding care without appointments being made far in advance. Since flare-ups of sciatica can occur quickly, it is disheartening to be told that you may have to wait weeks or even months to see a qualified specialist.
If you are experiencing neurological deficit, like sudden foot drop, incontinence of bladder or bowels or saddle paresthesia, be sure to seek out emergency care right away. These symptoms might be warning signs of a true medical emergency and may require fast treatment in order to minimize the chances of suffering permanent neurological injury.