Sciatica is a common condition affecting the sciatic nerve – the nerve extending from the lower back down to the bottom of each leg. As many as 4 out of every 10 people will experience sciatica at some point in their lives, according to WebMD.
While sciatica is common, it is painful. Fortunately, there are several options available for the treatment and management of sciatic pain.
What Causes Sciatica and What are the Symptoms?
Sciatica occurs when a portion of the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated. This most often occurs when a herniated disc, bone spur, or narrowing of the spine compresses a portion of the nerve, causing inflammation, pain, and sometimes numbness.
This pain or numbness is almost always associated with one leg, with symptoms radiating down from the point of nerve compression or irritation. In more severe cases, muscle spasms, leg weakness, and bladder or bowel changes may also occur.
How to Manage and Treat Pain from Sciatica
In many instances, the first line of treatment for sciatic pain is medication to ease the suffering. In mild cases, over-the-counter pain relievers may be enough to manage the pain. In other cases, prescription muscle relaxants may be used to ease muscle spasms, antidepressants may be used for chronic low back pain, and prescription pain medications may be used for severe pain.
Beyond medication to relieve pain, a physician may recommend physical therapy. Supervised exercise may help reduce sciatic pain and can even help prevent the pain from coming back once it’s gone. Some people with sciatic pain will also turn to acupuncture therapy performed by a licensed professional for pain relief, although it’s important to note that this has yet to be proven by scientific studies to help sciatica.
In the most severe cases, where pain persists for at least 6 weeks despite treatment, the only treatment of sciatica may be surgery. The goal of sciatica surgery is typically to remedy the cause of the sciatic pain, whether that means alleviating a herniated disc or correcting spinal stenosis.
Pain from sciatica is common, and in some cases, very painful. Luckily there are several ways to manage and treat sciatic pain regardless of the intensity of the pain. Be sure to consult with your physician on the best treatment and pain management plan for you.
To learn more about sciatica treatment, continue reading about Oppenheim and Degen Neurological Surgeons’s treatment of severe sciatica.