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How Do You Treat Sciatica?

  • 7th January 2010 |
  • Author: Iris

Sciatica is the medical term used to describe pain felt along the path of the sciatic nerve.  The sciatic nerve is the travels from each side of the lower back, down the back of the thigh, and into the foot.  When the sciatic nerve is pinched, compressed or irritated, pain will be felt along the route that the nerve travels.

Sciatica is most often caused by a herniated disc or a slipped disc that is putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.  However, muscle imbalance and misalignment of the spine can also cause sciatic nerve pain symptoms.

The point of compression, pressure or irritation along the sciatic nerve will determine the area of the body that will experience the pain and discomfort.  Lower back pain may be present, but most often the pain in the leg is worse.

Not all sciatica pain sufferers will experience pain in the same areas.  However, one or more of the following symptoms are usually described by sciatica sufferers:

•    Tingling or numbness in one or both legs
•    Weakness in one or both legs, which is painful when standing
•    Pain in the back of the leg that increases when sitting
•    An electrifying or radiating pain down the leg
•    Sharp or shooting pain in the buttock
•    Radiating pain that moves down the leg and/or into the foot
•    Pins and needles or a burning sensation in the top of the foot
•    Numbness in the shin or the foot
•    Loss of control of bowel or bladder function

Sciatic pain may worsen when you stand, sit, sneeze or cough.  In addition to the symptoms outlined above, you may also suffer from the inability to bend your knee or move your foot or toes, resulting in a reduced range of motion.

Once sciatica is diagnosed and the underlying condition is determined, your doctor or medical practitioner will advise you on which treatment would be most beneficial for your particular condition.  There are a variety of treatments available that may relieve or alleviate the pain.

Cold and Hot Packs
A cold pack wrapped in a clean towel and applied to the painful area for 15 or 20 minutes can reduce inflammation and relieve discomfort.  A hot pack or a heating pad can also bring relief to the painful area.  Alternating or switching between warm and cold packs tends to be very therapeutic.

Over-the-Counter Medication and Prescription Drugs
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, are usually prescribed to treat the pain, stiffness and inflammation.  Other over-the-counter medications like Tylenol, Advil and Aleve are also prescribed.

If the pain is severe or persists, your doctor may prescribe pain medication and muscle relaxants to relieve the discomfort associated with muscle spasms.

Bed Rest
Limited bed rest may help ease the pain but prolonged bed rest is not recommended because it may worsen the condition.  A mattress with good support is a definite must because a soft, lumpy mattress can cause lower back pain and exacerbate the condition.

Physical Therapy and Regular Exercise
Physical therapy may be prescribed by your doctor to ease the pain.  Exercises that stretch the muscles and reduce the pressure on the sciatic nerve are ideal.  The use of decompression therapy has been quite successful in alleviating the pressure on the sciatic nerve, thus reducing the pain.

A program that consists of aerobic exercises – such as walking and swimming, movements to improve the flexibility of the muscles, and exercises to strengthen the muscles of the back, abdomen and legs is an ideal treatment for sciatica.  Alternative exercises that may be helpful are yoga and Pilates.

Spinal Injections

To increase mobility and reduce swelling and inflammation of the sciatic nerve roots, an injection of a steroid-like anti-inflammatory medicine may be prescribed.  These corticosteroid injections mimic the effects of some of the hormones found in the body.  When prescribed in doses that exceed your body’s natural levels, corticosteroids control inflammation, thus reducing pressure and pain.

Surgery
If symptoms get progressively worse or you do not respond to conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery.  Usually, when the pain doesn’t improve or increase, or you lose control of your bladder or bowels, surgery may be the most viable option.

Alternative Treatments and Therapies

Alternative treatments like chiropractic care, spinal manipulation, acupuncture, biofeedback, and massage may also provide pain relief, increase mobility, and reduce symptoms.

If your condition is treated properly and you adhere to the prescribed treatment plan, your sciatica should not last more than several weeks.  In some extreme cases, such as degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis, the pain can last for months or years..

1 Comment

  1. today i went to the the Emergency room my rigth leg was hurting so Bad it hurt for me to sit down and stand up even if i stand up to long it hurt i just found out what i have is sciatic i when went to the Emergncy room after 4 year i have sciatic pinch nerver

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