This won’t be our usual anatomy lesson, rather an impassioned plea for you to hear your options to improve your quality of life – a life that for all of us gets shorter by the day.
These last years have been a very harsh reminder of the uncertainty in life and our vulnerability. The only thing we cannot purchase, steal, cultivate, synthesize in a lab or trade on the internet is TIME. With such a finite resource do you want to spend what little time we all have with the searing pain of sciatica caused by a herniated disc?
There are great illustrations and descriptions of how sciatica is caused and how to address it surgically on our went site www.njnbi.com. Basically a disc will move or rupture and pressure on a nerve root causing searing pain down one or both legs.
Sometimes this will settle into remission and people will have episodic sciatica after certain activities. But much of the time it doesn’t go away and people live with very painful and very challenging radiculopathy (the medical term for the leg pain).
As people try to live with the pain while seeking pre-surgical solutions (physical therapy, pain management) they don’t realize how they are comprising in real time with various lifestyle hacks, workarounds and coping skills. Activities start to be curtailed.
Exercise drops off the daily routine because working out with sciatica is unbearable. Things that bring us joy in life such as time with loved ones, parenting activities, recreational sports, climbing, hiking, kayaking, skiing, the list is endless – all are at the mercy of the tyrannical sciatica temperament. Would you tolerate this oppression from anywhere or anyone else?
I hear all the reasons people may be hesitant to explore a surgical option. They aren’t sure its going to work. They hope the latest sciatica flare up will disappear on its own (despite deep down they know it won’t). They don’t know who to call or where the quality care is. And of course, simple fear. Sciatica can be so painful that it demoralizes a person to the extent they may feel hopeless – a tangent with its own weather pattern.
While there are answers that countermeasure each of these concerns, I have been surgeon long enough to know that my patients, most of whom are very smart and able to process the logic of all these points will never be convinced with simple rationale explanations.
The conversation with a trepitdatious sciatica patient who is a great surgical candidate is an emotional one. The discussion almost always veers into me gently helping the patient assess the quality of improvement that happens with a successful outcome, and the responsibility to ourselves and our loved ones to be the best possible version of ourselves.
So lets have that conversation. Here are some thoughts to consider if you are grappling with the decision for surgery –
You deserve a pain free life with freedom of movement.
Surgical outcomes are excellent under the current protocols and your doctor will explain what to reasonably expect. Your loved ones want to see you get better and join in activities again.
Often when people decide to go forward with surgery they find support they hadn’t expected in family and friends who help alleviate the uncomfortable anxiety. Next, patients are further relieved as they have a very positive office and hospital experience.
And lastly, patients are stunned and surprised by the quality of life that gradually return after the immediate weeks following surgery with a pain managed recovery. One common post operative monologue I hear from patients is regret they waited so long.
Now the hard truth: we have an moral obligation to live our best life and add the most we can to the lives of our loved ones. What would you tell someone you cared about who is facing the same decision? Your decision to have surgery is a decision to re-join life.