Back pain is among the most disruptive forms of acute and chronic pain. Sciatica pain, caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, is a well-known, commonly treated condition. Herniated discs in the lower back, typically due to injury or aging, often cause sciatica pain.
Sciatica pain can be excruciating, but the good news is that this condition may resolve itself within a few weeks. And if it doesn’t there are several treatment options available.
What Exactly is Sciatica?
The sciatic nerve is the longest in the human body, extending from the lower back and down each leg.
The most common physical cause of sciatica is a herniated disc in the lower back or lumbar spine. The spine’s vertebrae are separated by discs that cushion and support the spine. If injured, this disc may shift and press on the sciatic nerve. In addition, the disc’s tough exterior may degrade over time, causing the jelly-like interior to push out through tears, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica pain generally begins in the lower back and may spread to the thigh, calf, or foot of one leg. The majority of people describe their pain as burning or sharp. The pain is often worse when standing or sitting still. Although pain on one side of the buttocks is the most prominent symptom of sciatica, this condition can also manifest as:
It is essential to contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms in addition to sciatica discomfort:
- Extreme or incapacitating pain
- Foot drop
- Leg muscle weakness
- Changes in bladder or bowel function
Best Treatment For Sciatica
The majority of doctors initially recommend conservative treatments for sciatica back pain.
1. Brief bed rest — Although brief periods of bed rest may be required after an episode of sciatica, it is vital to remain as active as possible to promote healing and reduce the likelihood of the pain becoming chronic. Excessive bed rest can weaken the muscles required to support the spine and make discs more susceptible to damage.
2. Heat or ice therapy — Short periods of ice, no longer than 20 minutes, alternated with heat therapy, can alleviate pain, improve circulation, and accelerate the healing process.
3. Anti-inflammatory medications — Inflammation is a significant component of sciatica, worsening pain symptoms. NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, may be taken to reduce swelling. In certain instances, steroid injections can reduce inflammation and pain.
4. Physical therapy — Stretches and back strengthening exercises can alleviate sciatica back pain by reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
5. Exercising — Maintaining a regular exercise routine consisting of stretching, cardiovascular exercise, and muscle-building exercise is important to treat and prevent sciatica pain.
6. Surgical procedures to treat sciatica pain —For approximately 5 to 10 percent of people who experience sciatica, surgical intervention to relieve nerve pressure is the only treatment option. These individuals have not responded to more conservative treatments, and a discectomy or laminectomy may be an option for relief.
- Discectomy is a surgical procedure that removes abnormal disc material pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.
- Laminectomy creates space by removing a small portion of the back of the spine’s vertebrae. Laminectomy enlarges the spinal canal to alleviate pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
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