Can Sciatica Be Cured? Here’s How It’s Treated

December 7, 2021


It’s easy for any ailment involving the spine to cause concern. After all, given how important the spine is to the healthy function of your body, any kind of pain involving the nerves in the spinal column—not to mention the bones and cartilage protecting them—can set off alarm bells, and sciatica is no exception.

Understandable as it is, though, that alarm is often unnecessary where sciatica is concerned. Here’s what you need to know about sciatica and how to treat it.

The best part? In most cases, you already have all the tools.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is pain that starts in the lower back, caused by the sciatic nerve, which carries electrical signals from the brain down to the legs. Sciatica usually affects just one side of the body and tends to be worse when sitting or coughing.

There are several different potential causes of sciatica, but the most frequent one is a bulging (herniated) disc in the lower back, which can inflame the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50.

What are the most frequent treatments?

In most cases—more than 90 percent—surgery is not required for sciatica. The problems typically experienced with sciatica can often be treated with physical therapy. Through therapeutic stretching exercises, people suffering from sciatica can control their pain, improve flexibility, and strengthen their back muscles. All of this not only addresses the current pain, but also lowers the risk of future injuries.  For the best results, therapy can be combined with other exercise, as continued activity can also help ease pain and other symptoms.

More serious measures: Medication and surgery

In addition to therapy and exercise, people suffering from sciatica may benefit from pain medications. These drugs are not opioids and are not habit-forming, but can help manage pain. Corticosteroids, delivered via injection, are also an option.

If medications and therapy do not produce the desired results, you may consider surgery. In this case, the doctor will most likely remove the portion of a back disc that is affecting the sciatic nerve. A short hospital stay (typically one day) is associated with this treatment.

When surgery makes sense

Again, in 90 to 95 percent of cases, time and a conservative course of treatment are sufficient to control sciatica. It’s typically only after that treatment has failed to resolve the problem that your doctor will consider surgery.

Other instances that might lead a doctor to consider surgery sooner to relieve sciatica pain include extensive or progressive weakness, significant numbness in the buttocks, or incontinence due to sciatica. In these cases, surgical intervention will typically be more prompt.

Need to find the best treatment for your sciatica or other pain? Orlin & Cohen offices across Long Island are open seven days a week for immediate, personalized care from fellowship-trained spine specialists, with comprehensive options for managing sciatica pain, including physical therapy and pain management. Request an in-person or telehealth appointment  now.