How Much Does it Cost to Treat Sciatica?
Although sciatica is not necessarily a medical diagnosis, the term is commonly used to help identify a different underlying health issue that is directly related to sciatic nerve pain. Sciatica describes discomfort and pain, in addition to tingling and numbness, felt in the legs. The lower back is usually the source of the issue, where pain and numbness run from the lower back down to the sciatic nerve in each leg. The pain can vary in severeness, and the level of severity will determine the best treatment approach.
Some symptoms of sciatica include:
- Lower back pain
- A tingling or burning sensation down the leg
- Hip pains
- Walking difficulties
- Discomfort either in the rear or the leg that worsens when seated
- Muscle weakness or numbness in the leg
While sciatica is a symptom that points to a larger medical problem, it’s still possible to treat it and alleviate any pain. There are a plethora of treatments available; however, prices between options expand over a wide range. Nevertheless, we’re going to explore different treatments and the prices they come at. It’s important to note that there is no correct way to treat sciatica, as pain, pain tolerance, and the effectiveness of any treatment varies between each patient.
Physical therapy Cost without health insurance: $50-$350 per session
Cost with health insurance (copay): $10-$75 per session
It’s possible that you will be referred to a physical therapist to help relieve sciatic nerve pain. Physical therapy helps patients build strength, flexibility, and endurance through active and passive techniques. Additionally, therapists teach patients proper biomechanics to not only improve their functional abilities, but also to prevent injury. Some techniques physical therapists might try to use on a person suffering from sciatica would be:
- Hot and cold therapies, where the therapist would attempt to stimulate blood flow to the affected area by applying heat. Heat encourages increased blood flow, which results in more oxygen and nutrients being brought into the targeted spot. Cold therapy, on the other hand, slows flow and helps with inflammation, discomfort, and painful muscle spasms. Therapists utilizing this particular treatment will switch between hot and cold therapies.
- Deep tissue massages can help unfurl the tension that could possibly be irritating your sciatic nerve. The pressure and heat from the friction when applied directly onto the aggravated area helps relieve the built-up tension in your lower back.
- TENS, also known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, help reduce muscle spasms. A TENS unit is a machine that uses electrical currents to stimulate your muscles which in turn encourages the production of endorphins.
The pharmaceutical market has plenty of options that can assist a person with their pain. Here are a few common options for sciatica:
- Epidural Steroid Injections can have steep costs with prices that range from approximately $882 to $994. Epidural steroid injections help manage inflammation, which directly affect sciatic nerve pain. The effects of just one epidural, while not absolutely effective for all patients, can last for months.
- Muscle relaxants are effective in reducing muscle tension, helping to relieve muscle pain. Prices vary depending on the brand you choose; more affordable options start at around $8 and climb upward from there.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are also commonly used for sciatica. Some of these medications, like Ibuprofen, are over-the-counter and are easily accessible. NSAIDs are priced with a range similar to muscle relaxants.
Obviously one of the more extreme options is to undergo surgery to correct an underlying medical condition, which causes sciatica. Though most patients manage with less invasive options, there are some situations where surgery is your only option. With spinal surgeries for sciatica, there are two kinds of procedures that are commonly performed: a discectomy or microdiscectomy, where the surgeon removes the portion of the herniated disc that is pressing down on the sciatic nerve, and a laminectomy or laminotomy, which involves the removal of the lamina, a layer of bone that protects your spinal cord.
Cost without health insurance: Approximately $20,000-$50,000
Cost with health insurance: Approximately $200-$2,000
This ancient art is known for the endless benefits that come with it. Acupuncture has been proven to help improve sleeping schedules, regulate diets, and eliminate sciatica. Using small needles targeted to very specific points on the body, acupuncture encourages your body to produce natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins. Acupuncture also helps stimulate blood flow, which ultimately relaxes your muscles, alleviating sciatic pain. Without insurance, an acupuncture sessionaverages out to cost approximately $75, though, like most costs, it depends on where you live.
Yoga and Stretching
Whether you consult with an instructor or Google some helpful tips, stretching and practicing yoga is quite beneficial to those with sciatica. When you practice yoga, or stretch a certain way, you are opening up targeted areas of your body, thus releasing the tension built there. The internet is a wonderful resource if you want to save money; however, make sure you’re performing each exercise correctly and consistently.
Adapting a more active lifestyle
Did you know that too much sitting can adversely impact your health? Slouching over a desk from nine to five every day can seriously aggravate your sciatic nerve, so try standing for at least twenty minutes every hour. Take a walk and adapt a regular exercise routine. Sometimes, a little self-care will do wonders for your body.