What Are The Best Sciatica Treatment Options
Chymopapain, an enzyme found in papaya, is sometimes used as a chronic sciatica treatment for pain caused by a herniated disc that would normally require surgery. It was approved for use by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1982, is quite widely used in Canada and occasionally used in the UK.
The drug has been controversial ever since it was introduced as a treatment for sciatica, but some patients have found it very effective. However some people are highly allergic to chymopapain, so it is important to have an allergy test before using as a severe sciatica treatment.
Injecting this papaya extract to remedy ruptured disc pain is less traumatic, invasive and costly than surgery, and can provide some sciatica relief as long as it is administered by an appropriately qualified and experienced medical practitioner.
However, as with surgery, it is important to remember that chymopapain is just one step in the recovery process towards sciatica relief. It is not in itself a cure.
How It Works
Taking chymopapain injections as a treatment for sciatica sounds almost too good to be true. ‘One injection completely cured me without me need for surgery,’ said an estate agent in the US.
When used as a sciatica treatment, a chymopapain injection is administered under local or general anesthetic by a neurosurgeon, orthopedic surgeon or anesthetist. You lie on your side on an X-ray table. Depending on whether you are awake or asleep, different techniques are used to pinpoint the exact area where the gel portion of your disc has broken through its casing and is putting pressure on a nerve root.
The injection itself takes about 5 minutes. The entire procedure, from entering to leaving the treatment room takes about half an hour, and can start providing sciatica pain relief almost right away.
If the injection is successful, the chymopapain dissolves the gel from the ruptured disc, thereby lessening pressure on the nerve root. This should offer some sciatica pain relief in your legs almost immediately.
Some patients who get chymopapain injections as sciatica back pain treatment leave the same day they are treated, but most are hospitalized for one to four nights for observation or for treatment of other back pain caused by the procedure itself.
Disc surgery patients, on the other hand, are hospitalized for an average of eight days. And chymopapain patients have another advantage over disc surgery patients. They usually experience full sciatica relief and are back in full swing in six weeks, while surgery patients may need three to six months to resume the activities they pursued before the ruptured disc episode.
Some Negatives about Chymopapain As A Sciatica Treatment
In the clinical trials that led to approval of chymopapain in the US, two out of 1,400 patients died because of allergic reactions to the enzyme. Such fatalities could probably have been avoided by proper testing to identify allergic patients and by giving them preventive medication. About 1 per cent of patients who have chymopapain injections have an allergic reaction, although most are not fatal.
Severe back pain
About one-third of chymopapain patients develop excruciating back pain from the injection. The pain lasts up to 48 hours and occasionally longer. Muscle relaxants and locally injected anesthetics used to ease this pain don’t provide much needed sciatica relief.
Inaccessibility to injection
Even when a myelogram or CT scan can locate a ruptured disc, a syringe cannot always reach the offending gel.
Not an all-purpose substitute/or back surgery
Numerous other back ailments like sciatica, such as degenerative disc, spinal tumors, spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal column) and spondylolisthesis cannot be treated with chymopapain.
Like any other pain-relieving sciatica treatment, chymopapain doesn’t change the conditions that brought on the problem initially. But it does offer you a less invasive and debilitating alternative to disc surgery and an opportunity to rehabilitate your back and avoid future problems.
Success rates vary from hospital to hospital. More to the point, they vary from doctor to doctor. And it is extremely important to find one of the relatively few doctors who have had a lot of successful experience using chymopapain therapy as a sciatica treatment. Don’t assume that any competent surgeon or anesthetist has adequate training in chymopapain therapy.