What Causes Sciatica And What Treatments Are Effective?

What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is classified as an intense shooting pain or burning that originates in the lower back and radiates down into the leg and hip and can be persistent or intermittent.  This can also be accompanied by weakness or numbness in the affected leg and is often aggravated by strenuous activity or prolonged periods of sitting or standing.  Those who suffer from Sciatica often find it difficult to climb stairs, walk long distances or get a good nights sleep.   However, many people are unaware that Sciatica is not actually a condition but rather a symptom of an underlying spinal condition.

What is the real cause of Sciatica?
The most common cause of Sciatica is a lumbar disc herniation at the L4-L5 vertebrae. At each level of the spine, there are nerve roots that exit on both sides of the spine and each of these nerves control a motor or neurological function.  The Sciatic nerve is the longest continuous nerve in the human body and runs from the lumbar spine through the buttocks and into the foot.  When the L4-L5 spinal disc becomes herniated, it begins to compress the Sciatic nerve, which results in the radiating pain and burns from the lower back into the leg.

For those suffering from Sciatica, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible as this condition is an obvious sign of nerve injury in the spine.  If treated early enough, the pain will subside with no lasting nerve damage.  However, if left untreated, irreversible damage to the nerve can occur causing lasting pain and potential loss of sensation and certain functions of the leg.

Luckily, there are several effective treatment options to relieve Sciatic pain, including Minimally Invasive Spine Procedures.

What Treatments are Effective for Sciatica?
Today, renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Anthony Virella is a utilizing a pioneering procedure known as Minimally Invasive Microdiscectomy to treat Sciatica without the drawbacks of traditional spinal surgery.   The Microdiscectomy procedure is used to relieve pressure on the Sciatic nerve by removing the herniated portion of the spinal disc without the need for metal implants and screws.  This procedure requires an incision of less than one inch and often takes less than one hour.  As a result of this Minimally Invasive Approach, patients are able to return home the same day as their procedure and have an expedited recovery profile.   Dr. Virella is one of only a handful of surgeons in California performing this procedure and has lectured extensively on the benefits of this procedure.  He has also been featured on Eyewitness News discussing this amazing procedure.

This procedure has garnered significant attention as athletes like Tiger Woods and Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo have chosen to undergo this procedure and returned to their respective sports without limitation.

This approach has been made possible by substantial advances in surgical technology.  Specifically, the use of fluoroscopic guidance which allows surgeons to visualize the anatomy of the spine and placement of surgical instruments using real-time X-rays.  Traditionally, the only way to gain visual access to the spine was using an open procedure and accessing the spine through a large incision.  The Minimally Invasive Approach also uses small surgical instruments that are placed between the muscles of the spine in an effort to avoid the dissection of these muscles which allows the body to heal much more rapidly after the procedure.

About Dr. Anthony Virella
Dr. Anthony Virella is a Board-Certified, Fellowship trained Neurological Spine Surgeon with advanced training in the management of complex spinal disorders. He attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and is a graduate of the UCLA Neurosurgery Residency Program. Dr. Virella completed his complex spine in-folding resident fellowship at the world renowned Cleveland Clinic Foundation with Dr. Edward C. Benzel, M.D. Additional work included a second fellowship in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center. Dr. Virella is a nationally recognized specialist in the field of complex and Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and has offices located in Westlake Village and Valencia.   If you, or someone you love, is suffering from persistent Sciatic pain, call us at 805.449.0088 to schedule an appointment.