Find a physician

Treatment Options for Sciatica Related to a Herniated Disc


Herniated discs often occur in the lower back area. For this reason, it is not unusual for the affected nerve to be the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back and works its way downward. If the sciatic nerve is the source of your discomfort, there are some ways you can enjoy welcome relief. This article discusses treatment options that may benefit patients with sciatica related to herniated discs.

Rest for a Bit (but Not Too Long)

If your discomfort is not too serious, resting for a few days may be beneficial. However, do not overdo it with rest. If you lie down or take it easy too often, muscles that support your spine could become weak, which could result in increased herniated disc pain that contributes to more severe and disruptive symptoms. This can happen as spine-supporting muscles weaken.

Try a Mix of Conservative Treatments

Unless your symptoms are severe or potentially debilitating, you will likely be advised to try conservative treatments first for a herniated disc with sciatica. There are several forms of treatment that do not involve surgery. Typically, treatments of this nature include:

• Medication—especially anti-inflammatory drugs, since inflammation tends to worsen sciatica-related symptoms
• Hot and cold applications to facilitate tissue and nerve healing and ease inflammation
• Muscle relaxants to ease the pain that sometimes results from muscle spasms caused by sciatic nerve irritation

Try Physical Therapy

Many patients benefit from physical therapy designed to relieve herniated disc pain that is linked to sciatica. A personalized physical therapy plan can include:

• Gentle
sciatica stretches
• Supervised exercises
• Recommended exercises and routines to do at home
• Routines involving specialized equipment that targets muscles around the affected area

Get Therapeutic Injections

For some patients, it is difficult to fully benefit from herniated disc treatments, especially ones involving physical therapy, due to the pain caused by related movements and stretches. If this type of pain is what is hindering your progress with treatment, you may benefit from epidural cortisone injections. These injections are administered directly into the space around the spinal nerves. In this case, it would be the sciatic nerve. For some patients, the resulting relief makes it easier to participate in physical therapy sessions in a more beneficial way.

Consider Alternative Therapies

Just because a treatment is considered "alternative" does not mean it will not be effective. If your lumbar herniated disc is contributing to sciatica symptoms, you may respond well to any of the following alternative treatment options:

• Acupuncture
• Chiropractic adjustments
• Nonsurgical decompression to naturally shift the disc with the use of a specially designed table

See Your Doctor or a Spine Specialist

Ideally, you should see your doctor or a spine specialist as soon as you start to notice symptoms that could be related to a herniated disc. Doing so ensures the treatments you opt to try are likely to be effective and safe. 

If you are not having much success with conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery. The most common surgical treatment for sciatica related to a herniated disc is a discectomy (or a less invasive microdiscectomy), which involves removing all or a portion of the affected spinal disc.

Patients who have had discectomies for herniated discs may experience sciatica if their discs reherniate, which often occurs if there is a large hole in the outer ring of the disc after surgery. Fortunately, there is a new treatment available. Barricaid is a device shown to reduce the risk of reherniation by closing the hole in the disc after a discectomy, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

To learn more about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

For full benefit/risk information, please visit: