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Can Sciatica Be Treated Nonsurgically?

Can Sciatica Be Treated Nonsurgically?

Back pain that travels down your legs and leads to numbness or tingling may be caused by sciatica. If you're living with painful sciatica, you may not believe there's relief without surgery – but it is possible.

In many cases, you can relieve sciatica with conservative measures like physical therapy, injections, and over-the-counter medications. You may require surgery in severe cases, but only if other measures haven't helped.

When you want to explore your treatment options for sciatica, Dr. Jordi Kellogg and the Kellogg Brain and Spine team can help. Dr. Kellogg is an experienced neurosurgeon, providing surgical and nonsurgical sciatica options.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is a term we use to describe any back pain that begins in the lower back and radiates down one or both of your legs. Pain occurs as a result of compression of the large sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back down the legs and ends just below each knee.

An actual injury to the sciatic nerve is rare; however, the same symptoms happen when something puts pressure on any of the large spinal nerves around the spinal column and spinal cord.

Sciatica can be acute or chronic and develop quickly or over time. The symptoms vary from person to person but may include numbness or tingling, weakness, and back or leg pain.

Symptoms of sciatica may come and go or feel relatively constant. Most people find relief from home therapy, although some may require more aggressive treatment.

Nonsurgical treatments for sciatica

Most mild-to-moderate cases of sciatica go away on their own, especially with the addition of conservative or home treatments. Dr. Kellogg offers various options for nonsurgical treatment of sciatica, which include:

Physical therapy

Physical therapy is a great way to manage sciatica by promoting blood flow to the spine and helping to strengthen your body. A physical therapist creates a customized plan for mobility and pain reduction through therapeutic exercise.


Over-the-counter medications help to control the pain and inflammation we associate with sciatica. Dr. Kellogg also prescribes oral steroids, antidepressants, and opioid pain medications to help control sciatica symptoms.


Corticosteroid injections are helpful when oral medications haven't worked to relieve your pain. The corticosteroid reduces painful inflammation quickly for results that can last for months and sometimes years.

Alternative therapies

Massage therapy and acupuncture are both forms of holistic therapy that may help reduce sciatica symptoms. Using these services in conjunction with other treatments may provide long-term symptom relief.

Ice and heat

You can manage mild forms of sciatica with ice and heat. Ice helps to reduce inflammation, while heat relaxes tight muscles and tissues to provide relief.

When do I need surgery?

Most people don't need surgery to manage sciatica symptoms, but it is possible in severe cases. If your pain doesn't improve with conservative measures, or you're having extreme weakness or a loss of bladder and bowel control, Dr. Kellogg may recommend surgery.

There are two types of surgery Dr. Kellogg performs for sciatica, based on your symptoms and what's compressing the nerve. A laminectomy and discectomy are the common types of surgery to treat nerve symptoms.

During a laminectomy, Dr. Kellogg removes the outer part of the vertebrae, just under the skin, called the lamina. Removing part of the vertebrae relieves pressure on the nerves, often relieving symptoms immediately after the procedure.

You may also require a procedure called a discectomy. During a discectomy, Dr. Kellogg cleans out and removes parts of a herniated disc that's pressing on spinal nerves. Again, you'll feel relief after surgery.

As with any procedure, Dr. Kellogg discusses the risks and benefits of surgery compared to your symptoms to make the best decision for your needs.

Call Kellogg Brain and Spine today to schedule a consultation for sciatica symptoms with Dr. Kellogg , or request an appointment on the website.

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