Sciatica Pain Foraminotomy

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Foraminotomy as a Sciatica Pain Treatment

Foraminotomy as a treatment for sciatica pain is a surgical procedure that widens the opening in your back where the large sciatic nerve root bundle leaves the spinal canal. You may have a narrowing of the nerve opening (foraminal stenosis) which can result in a condition called sciatica.

Sciatica Pain Treatments –Foraminotomy

As a sciatica pain treatment, foraminotomy surgery endeavors to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve in your spinal column and allows it to move more easily. It may be performed on any level of the spine. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia so the patient will be asleep and feel no pain.

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A foraminotomy surgery is a spinal decompression that can be done alone or combined with other surgeries to enlarge the spinal canal allowing the nerves to pass through more freely. When trauma or other spinal conditions have damaged the vertebrae, joints, or discs, they may bulge into the spinal canal. When this occurs, the nerve roots in the spinal canal may become “pinched”. This leads to pain and inflammation. In sciatica pain specifically, the largest and longest nerve in the body known as the sciatic nerve is compressed. This 1” nerve consists of multiple nerve bundles. When compressed, it will send pain into the localized area, but also sensations may be felt in the buttocks, legs, and feet. Patients report feeling weakness, numbness, tingling, cramping, and burning in those areas.

Foraminotomy surgery is an option for those patients with severe sciatica pain when conservative treatment options like medication and physical therapy have failed to provide enough relief. The risks of this procedure are the same as with any surgery including: bleeding, blood clots, nerve damage, infection, and spinal fluid leakage. However, if the procedure is done as a minimally invasive surgery and by a skilled and experienced spine surgeon, those risks are considerably diminished.

In a minimally invasive foraminotomy surgery, the procedure can be performed in an outpatient facility. A sedative and anesthesia are administered to the patient before making a small 1” incision into the back. The muscles are gently moved away from the area to be addressed. The surgeon will remove any bone or tissue blocking the sensitive nerves’ clear passage through the spinal canal. The muscles will then be delicately replaced and the incision will be closed.

The surgeon will discuss after surgery care with the patient and prescribe medication to help with any pain during the healing process. It is recommended after foraminotomy surgery for sciatica pain not to lift any heavy objects or do strenuous activities until approved by the surgeon. When the patient is stronger, physical therapy may be added to stretch the muscles and elongate the spine which can aid in healing. Core strength building exercises are also beneficial to decrease chances of re-injury.

At-a-Glance: Foraminotomy as a Sciatica Pain Treatment

  • Foraminotomy performed minimally invasively shortens recovery time
  • Usually performed in an outpatient setting
  • Surgical incision typically less than 1” in length
  • Foraminotomy surgery as a sciatica pain treatment may be combined with other spinal decompression surgeries
  • Procedure for candidates who have tried more conservative treatment options to treat their sciatica pain but with inadequate relief from symptoms as a result

Sciatica Pain Symptoms

  • Throbbing or stabbing pain in one leg  (sometimes both legs)
  • Numbness or tingling radiating down the back and into the buttocks, legs or feet
  • Weakness in one leg (sometimes both legs)
  • Cramping or burning sensations in the lower extremities

Health Tips

  • Always eat breakfast
  • Eat your fruit and veg
  • Take time to shop each week
  • Sit down at the table to eat
  • Get adequate rest daily.

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