Initial treatment for sciatica will come in a conservative form. Surgery for sciatica is often not required as the condition traditionally responds well to non surgical treatment. The only reason to consider surgery before conservative treatment would be if your physician had belief that permanent damage may occur if immediate decompression is not achieved.
Treating sciatica begins with ice therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve any swelling or inflammation. After 48 - 72 hours have passed other treatments such as heat therapy, stretching, specially designed exercises, and using over-the-counter medications to control pain can be added to the recovery plan.
Physical therapy can also prove to be an effective tool in your recovery from sciatica, and should be used for an extended period of time to help maintain spinal health and help prevent future injury. Although patients shouldn’t expect immediate results from their physical therapy, a large percentage of patients are able to notice symptoms gradually improved after a few weeks.
Chiropractic manipulation of the spine may help also be of aid by reducing the amount of separation of the surfaces in the joint resulting in an increased range of motion.
When to Consider Surgery for Sciatica?
Surgery for sciatica is usually reserved for situations when the compressed nerve causes significant muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, or severe pain that gets progressively worse. It is generally reasonable to consider sciatica surgery if your symptoms haven’t improved after 2 to 3 months of conservative, non-surgical treatments.
Because sciatica can be caused by many different underlying conditions, the surgery that would bring relief to you may be different than what would help another patient. See our endoscopic surgery section for a more detailed look at endoscopic sciatica surgery procedures that may help bring you relief. You may also use our Back & Neck Pain Evaluation Tool™ for a complete diagnosis and treatment recommendation based on your history and symptoms.