Nonsurgical sciatica treatment is the general rule for preliminary therapy in the medical and complementary medical sectors. Most of the commonly utilized sciatica therapies are symptomatic and noninvasive, but seldom offer true or lasting cures. This is because they do nothing to act on the underlying origin of symptoms, if this cause is even accurately known.
Patients are wise to desire noninvasive sciatic care, since surgery has generally proven itself to be unnecessary, dangerous and ineffective. Sure, in some rare instances, there exists a structural issue that requires and is indicated for surgical correction. However, these cases represent less than 3% of patients who eventually go on to receive some form of invasive therapy.
The obvious downside of most nonsurgical care methods is that they often only minimally reduce the intensity of pain, tingling, weakness and numbness, if they accomplish anything at all. Very few noninvasive techniques have any hope of providing lasting resolution of sciatica. However, there are a few notable exceptions to this rule.
This patient guide delves into the nonsurgical sciatica treatment industry and offers guidance on the positive and negative attributes of many of the most popular therapy modalities. We will also contrast surgical and nonsurgical treatments to help patients decide if and when an operation may be the best path towards a cure for their specific needs.
Nonsurgical Sciatica Treatment Defined
Truly noninvasive care implies no degree of skin penetration is involved during the therapy method. This means no surgery, no injection-based techniques and nothing that breaks the skin. However, most doctors and patients consider nonsurgical treatments to include mildly to moderately invasive procedures, such as injections and some very superficial surgical interventions.
Nonsurgical care is also commonly known as conservative care. There are nonsurgical modalities that represent traditional medical therapy, complementary medical care and alternative healing practices, as well as many examples of home remedies for sciatica.
It should be noted that just because a treatment is nonsurgical does not mean that it is safe, without risk or effectual in any way. In fact, some of the riskiest of all long-term treatments are nonsurgical and consist of the application of hazardous pharmaceutical products that can cause horrific injury and even death. Therefore, medical consumers are still warned to thoroughly investigate every treatment prior to undergoing care.
Nonsurgical Sciatica Therapy Options
There are countless therapy options directed at reducing or resolving sciatica sufferings, without the use of surgery. Some of the most common and sought-after therapies include:
Sciatica drugs are certainly the most prevalent therapies, since they are popular with doctors and patients alike. However, many doctors downplay the considerable risks of drug therapies and most patients are simply unaware that their health and lives have been placed in grave danger by the ongoing use of the most powerful pain medications.
Acupuncture and acupressure are holistic pain management systems that demonstrate excellent results for many patients when provided by a true expert. There are virtually no significant risks to consider with acupuncture, although the cost of care can be considerable and might not enjoy full insurance coverage.
Massage for sciatica includes many specific types of hands-on therapies, including Rolfing, reflexology and trigger point work. Massage is all-natural and effective for most patients. Although massage will almost never cure sciatica, it can bring marked relief, with no downside except for monetary cost.
Chiropractic uses spinal manipulation and other methods of care to enhance health and possibly reduce pain. Some patients have reported being hurt by over-aggressive chiropractors, so a great degree of care should be exercised when selecting a service provider.
Physical therapy is a traditional medical approach that uses stretches and exercises to provide relief. Since all these practices seek to increase circulation of blood and oxygen, it is logical to conclude that patients who find relief are most likely suffering from regional ischemia and not any other diagnosis.
Special sciatica diets, using supplements and herbs might improve general wellness and may even provide conservative relief from some types of pseudo-sciatica syndromes.
TENS is the most popular form of electrotherapy that is used for a wide range of diagnoses, despite the fact that very little clinical proof exists to establish any degree of effectiveness. However, TENS is virtually without risk when used as directed and can provide good results for some patients, even with home-based care from a self-purchased TENS unit.
Sciatica injections are minimally invasive and come in many forms, including Botox, prolotherapy, epidural and nerve blocks.
Sciatica braces are usually ridiculous in their design and application. Most braces do not support the spine, nor limit movement in painful areas of the spine. Patients who report sciatica relief from using an orthotic or soft-type brace are almost always experiencing short-lived placebo effects of a product that was likely overpriced and marketed exclusively for financial gain. There are a few notable exceptions to this rule for specific spinal diagnoses and brace types, but these are virtually never applicable in typical sciatica sufferers.
Heat or ice are safe, easy and cost-effective therapies that may provide good results for many patients when used to treat sciatica at home. Even many professionally-provided treatments use diathermy or ice therapy, proving that simple, time-tested methods might be best for some patients.
Bed rest is often prescribed and is indicated for short term usage during intense acute attacks. However, bed rest is counterproductive and damaging when used for more than a few days time and is actually a major causative factor in disability related to chronic pain.
Nonsurgical Sciatica Treatment Versus Sciatica Surgery
As mentioned previously, there are only a few instances where surgery is the best path towards successful treatment. These circumstances usually involve verified pathological spinal issues, such as serious symptomatic central spinal stenosis, truly symptomatic intervertebral herniation, extreme atypical spinal curvatures and drastic spondylolisthesis problems.
Less than 3% of all sciatica surgeries are actually needed and most patients undergo these procedures simply because all noninvasive options have failed to provide relief, but not because their condition is actually indicated for surgical care according to any logical medical model.
It is vital to consider obvious logic before acquiescing to surgery of any kind. If the diagnosis is sound, then nonsurgical care might have provided relief by now. The fact that nonsurgical care failed often undermines the accuracy of the diagnosis, but this is rarely considered by the patient before seeking surgery for the very same mistaken diagnostic conclusion.
In some cases, a nonsurgical method of care has hope for actually curing structural issues that generate pain. This is occasionally seen with patients in chiropractic care, but is commonly witnessed in patients who undergo nonsurgical spinal decompression for the best indicated conditions. These people can often find lasting relief without the risk of any operative intervention. Obviously, for people with fitting diagnostic parameters, we advise exhausting every possible noninvasive therapy before seeking surgical correction of any kind. This recommendation is made based on the hazards of spinal operations, as well as their disappointing results for providing cures.