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Sciatica
Dr. Thomas Ferrigno, DC - Campbell   San Mateo


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Sciatica is severe back pain and numbness/tingling in the leg brought on by pressure on the sciatic nerve, typically from a herniated, protruding, or diseased disc. Dr. Ferrigno specializes in the most advanced non-surgical treatment of sciatica—a five-step program of disc restoration therapy that will help heal, hydrate, and protect the disc. He offers a free consultation and MRI review for patients experiencing symptoms, or who have concerns about sciatica.


Common Questions about Sciatic

Where does sciatica originate? What causes it?

Sciatica occurs when something puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, a nerve that exits the spine through the lower lumbar. Sciatica is often the symptom of a more complex problem, such as degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, or disc protrusion, each of which causes discs in the spine to gradually push back and pinch the sciatic nerve. The nerve runs the length of your leg, so in advanced cases, you might also feel pain, tingling, or even numbness in your leg. Arthritic change can also put pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in similar symptoms.


If I have sciatica, which side should I sleep on?

The discomfort of sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve from a particular disc in the spine, so sleeping comfortably is often just a matter of finding the position that best suits you. Whatever takes the pressure of that nerve, should offer relief. However, sleeping on your stomach is considered one of the worst positions for sciatica. Dr. Ferrigno recommends sleeping on your back with a pillow beneath your legs, or on your side in the fetal position.


Who can diagnose and treat sciatica?

At Bay Area Disc Centers, our primary focus is treating severe disc injury— the root cause of sciatica. At your free consultation, we’ll discuss your medical history and provide a complimentary examination and MRI assessment, to diagnose the source and severity of your condition. Dr. Ferrigno has extensive training and years of experience in treating severe disc patients. In fact, he was the first doctor nationally certified in spinal decompression, part of the leading non-surgical treatment for sciatica. He’s also on the International Advisory Board on Spinal Decompression, a group of medical professionals who help advise doctors around the country on how to diagnose and treat sciatica.


What should I avoid if I have sciatica?

Ergonomics, posture, and proper treatment are key to sciatica management. You’ll want to focus on keeping your spine neutral while sitting, standing, and moving around, so it puts less pressure on the nerve. Patients should avoid any prolonged bending or lifting, as these are activities that can irritate the nerve. However, Dr. Ferrigno likes to remind his patients that, “Motion is the lotion.” To keep injured discs from getting worse, safe movement is key, as it helps keep the discs hydrated. Part of Dr. Ferrigno’s five-step disc restoration therapy involves doctor-supervised exercise programs to strengthen your core, and the muscles around your spine, helping prevent and manage sciatica. At home, you’ll want to make sure you’re standing up, walking every now and then, moving around, doing light stretches—these are great things to do to relieve discomfort from sciatica. Patients can also use ice to cut down inflammation in the nerve. If the condition is advanced, the best course of action is to visit Dr. Ferrigno and get the proper treatment.


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Why does sciatica come and go?

Patients will sometimes feel the pain of sciatica come and go, especially in the beginning. However, the condition doesn’t come and go, just the symptoms. The condition has actually been developing slowly over time, and the symptoms are just starting to form. These first instances of pain are the warning signs that something is wrong. Damaged or herniated discs gradually lose fluid over time and start to bulge out. Sciatica occurs when a herniated or protruding disc is large enough, or protruding enough, to put pressure on the sciatic nerve. By the time you feel the symptoms, the condition has usually been developing for years. At this point, the disc gets inflamed after use and pinches the nerve, but will calm down if you rest. Ignoring these early signs can allows the condition to continue developing, and eventually the pain no longer comes and go. It becomes constant. Patients experience severe chronic pain, numbness in the leg, even weakness. This is the progression of the disease process. A free consultation with Dr. Ferrigno can help address disc problems before they advance. The more you’re able to do in terms of prevention, the less likely you are to get complex problems or severe pain. These conditions will only progress without treatment.


Are gout and sciatica related?

Usually not. On occasion, patients get gouty arthritis, which it puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, but it’s rare. However, osteoarthritis (or degenerative disc disease) does cause sciatica. When the arthritis lays down on the spine, it enlarges the joints. As they get bigger, they grow inward toward the spinal cord, making less room for the exiting nerve root (the sciatic nerve). Eventually, the joints start putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Usually, though, sciatica is the result of a combination of factors: the disc protruding back, and the set facet joints getting larger. Between those things, there’s less and less room for the nerve to breathe, and it eventually gets pinched.


How is sciatica treated?

The most effective treatment for sciatica is disc restoration therapy. Dr. Ferrigno specializes in a five-step disc restoration therapy, combining spinal decompression, physiotherapy, intersegmental mobilization, nutritional therapy, and exercise rehabilitation (or, S.P.I.N.E.). These five treatments combined into one program offer a balanced, long term solution for patients suffering from sciatica. Spinal decompression makes a specific, physical change to the damaged disc, and the rest of the program helps systematically reduce inflammation and strengthen the muscles around it. Sciatica is a tough, chronic condition. While many believe one of these treatments alone could be enough, they often find the problem only goes away momentarily. Combining these treatments into a balanced, synergistic program makes the difference. Surgery is also an option for patients suffering from sciatica, but it is always a last resort. Surgery isn’t a cure-all, and it’s success rate is low. That said, Dr. Ferrigno and his team aren’t against surgery. They believe, however, that patients should exhaust all non-surgical options first. If those don’t work, surgery is there waiting for you.

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