The symptoms of Sciatica have often been difficult to treat, but a new option to this debilitating problem provides effective relief in most cases with little or no risk.
The complaint of Sciatica is often used inappropriately to define any pain down the leg, the true description, however is irritation to the sciatica nerve which is comprised of several nerves as they leave the lower back and join together to travel down the leg. The most common cause of true sciatica is either a bulging or herniated disc in the lumbar spine. The discs are soft structures in between each bone int he spine that acts as a shock absorber.
The disc is essentially made up of two materials an outer layer consistent with cartilage and a much softer inner portion almost gelatinous in nature. With wear and tear the outer fibers can weaken allowing the softer material to gradually migrate outwards. This in turn causes an out pouching or bulging of the disc which then can compromise the exiting nerve. When this occurs symptoms of sciatica can manifest. This may include pain, numbness and even weakness in the leg.
Traditional treatment programs for sciatica typically consist of pain medication, injections and in severe cases surgery. These approaches may work in the short term to reduce inflammation and decrease the pain somewhat, however they also carry with them significant risk. The risk to reward benefit is often not worth it long term as most of these treatment are only temporary. If the problem becomes more severe and the nerve is actually compressed then these treatments may offer no relief at all.
One of the most common treatments from the above list are spinal injections or epidurals. This treatment may offer a short term solution to a debilitation problem, however it offers very little in the way of a long term benefit. The injections work by combating inflammation and reducing swelling of the affected nerve, however side effects may be associated with this treatment. These may include a spinal headache, a spike in blood sugar for diabetics and the potential of a rebound effect where the pain returns with greater intensity. The relief these injections bring may be worth the risk but a long term solution needs to be combined for the treatment to be truly effective.
Some of the worst cases of sciatica may be referred for surgery. This approach may help a small number of these cases and may in fact be the treatment of choice, however it brings with it significant risk factors and a poor success rate. Spinal surgeries have about a 50% success rate and often can lead to a condition called failed back surgery syndrome. This condition is usually caused by scar tissue formation, spinal instability or another disc being involved due to increase stress on adjacent levels. It is also very likely another surgery may be indicated in the future.
A new approach to the treatment of sciatica now exists that is safe, effective and treats the cause of the problem not just the symptoms. It’s called Spinal Decompression and brings with it a patented technology that allows a negative pressure to be created inside the disc space through a gentle distraction on the spine. This technology bypasses the typical guarding reflex of the spinal muscles and produces these negative gradients drawing in bulging and herniated material as well as fluid and nutrition so the disc can heal. It’s effective in over 80% of patients and has no risky side effects. While some will say it looks like traction the computer system makes it highly sophisticated and beyond the realm of traditional traction devices.
As more studies are done on this technology a consistently high success rate is achieved. The long term benefits are also very promising because as I stated previously the treatment is aimed at healing the disc and removing the pressure and irritation from the nerve, not just masking it. While spinal decompression is not right for everyone with sciatica, it certainly represents a true breakthrough and a safe long term option for this condition.
About the Author: Randall Pruitt, DC, DACNB is a board certified chiropractic neurologist. He was a pioneer in the use of spinal decompression in Phoenix, Arizona. He utilizes the DRX9000 exclusively to treat his patients with sciatica in Phoenix.