Sciatica is a condition that affects the sciatic nerve. It is a nerve that runs from the lower back to the back of each leg. When this nerve is irritated or compressed, it can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and other symptoms. While the cause of sciatica can vary, it often results from a herniated disc or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
There are various treatment options for sciatica, and the best choice will depend on the underlying cause. Treatment options include pain medication, physical therapy, epidural injections, and surgery. There are many other interventions as well.
Read on to know more.
Causes of Sciatica
There are many potential causes of sciatica, the most common of which is a herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the disc’s inner core pushes through the outer layer, irritating or compressing the sciatic nerve. Other causes of sciatica include tumors, infections, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal ), tumors, infections, and abscesses.
Symptoms of Sciatica
Sciatica symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the nerve compression. They may include pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs. The pain is often worse with prolonged sitting, coughing, or sneezing. It may also be worse at night.
Diagnosis of Sciatica
Your doctor will take a medical history and perform a physical examination to diagnose sciatica. He or she may also order imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans, to confirm the diagnosis.
What Happens After Diagnosis?
After you are diagnosed with sciatica, your doctor will likely recommend conservative treatment first. This may include over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe more vital pain medication. Some doctors also recommend physical therapy as it helps stretch and strengthen the muscles for spinal support.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend epidural injections. These are injections of corticosteroids and anesthetics given directly into the space around the spinal cord. The goal of these injections is to reduce inflammation and pain.
If conservative treatment fails to provide relief, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is usually only done if severe pain and other treatment options have failed. The goal of surgery is to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. You may also need an auto bone misplacement chiropractor if you meet with a hit-and-run case.
Hot and cold packs may also give some relief from sciatic nerve pain. You can alternate between hot and cold groups or use whichever provides the most comfort. Apply the hot pack for 15 minutes, followed by a 15-minute break. Repeat this four times an hour as needed. For the cold box, apply it for 20 minutes, followed by a 20-minute break. Repeat this three times an hour as needed.
In addition to the treatment options listed above, several other interventions may provide relief from sciatica. These include:
- Massage therapy – This can help to relax the muscles and reduce inflammation
- Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting needles into the skin at specific points
- Yoga – This may help stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the spine. It is a holistic approach and can also help to reduce stress
- Pilates – You can do this exercise at home or in a class. It is a low-impact exercise that may help stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the spine
If conservative treatment options fail to provide relief, your doctor may recommend surgery. The goal of surgery is to relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve. The type of surgery will depend on the underlying cause of your sciatica.
- For a herniated disc, the most common type of surgery is a laminectomy. This involves removing a small portion of the bone pressing on the nerve.
- For spinal stenosis, the most common type of surgery is decompressive laminectomy. This involves removing a portion of the bone and tissue pressing on the nerve.
- For a ruptured disc, the most common type of surgery is a discectomy. This involves removing the ruptured disc.
- Your doctor may also recommend surgery to fuse vertebrae if you have spinal stenosis.
Several risk factors increase your chances of developing sciatica. These include:
- Age – The older you are, the greater your chance of developing sciatica.
- Occupation – Jobs that require repetitive bending, twisting, or lifting can increase your risk.
- Weight – Carrying excess weight can stress the spine and increase your risk.
- Smoking – Smoking can damage the discs between the vertebrae and increase your risk.
- Excess alcohol consumption – Alcohol can cause inflammation and damage the discs between the vertebrae.
These are some of the best ways to fight sciatica and get some pain relief.