The origin of the name “sciatica” is due to the nature of the condition when the irritation is due to the sciatic nerve. It’s a low back pain and it can radiate through the buttock and down one leg (passing through the knee to the foot). A good number of people (4 out of 10) suffers from sciatica. If you did not know, sciatic nerves are the largest nerves in our entire body. The origin of the nerve is two lumbar nerve roots and two sacral nerve roots joining in the lowest part of our spine. The reason why the pain spreads is due to its spread through the back and passing through the hip joint, down the buttock and the back of the leg, and to the ankle and foot. The pain due to sciatica is like a shooting pain and may also burn like fire or tingle. Some people may feel pain in one part of one leg and numbness in the other leg. Read on to find out more on how do you treat sciatica.
What the symptoms are like
Sciatica is associated with pressure or inflammation of nerves and is often associated with a bulging or herniated disc. The most common symptoms of sciatica are numbness, tingling, weakness or pain in the lower back, buttock, and leg. It may feel like a bad leg cramp which sometimes can last for weeks before it goes away. You may feel pain sometimes especially when you cough, or sneeze. It may be very difficult to move and you may also have a weakness or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg. The symptoms of sciatica are often worse with sitting or coughing.
If you feel a sudden pain in your lower back or hip that keeps radiating to the back of your thigh and into your leg, you may have a herniated disk in your spinal column that is pressing on the nerve roots in the lumbar spine. This may be the cause of sciatica. Different activities such as bending, or flexing the hips, can make the symptoms worse. The pain can come and go or it can be constant. Bladder or bowel problems may be affected when a herniated disk or other nerves are involved. According to reports, sciatica is sometimes confused with restless leg syndrome as the leg pain starts only during relaxation especially in the evening, before going to bed or when trying to fall asleep.
Sciatica is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years and may be the result of the general wear and tear of aging, and any sudden pressure on the discs that cushion the bones of the lower spine.
The diagnosis is based on your symptoms. The doctor will ask you questions related to your pain, muscle weakness in your leg or foot, bone fracture or infection, fever, problems controlling your bladder or bowels, recent weight loss, or cancer. The examination is common in people with sciatica and is done to look for weakness and loss of sensation in your leg.
Immediate sciatica home treatment
Research suggests that as soon as sciatica pain begins, apply ice wrapped in a towel to the lower back for 15 minutes several times a day, and continue to apply ice for 48 hours. This will numb the area and constricts blood vessels, reducing swelling and inflammation.
After 48 hours, apply heat on the area. Use a heating pad or hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel on your lower back for 15 minutes at a time, and repeat the treatment throughout the day as needed. (be careful not to burn the skin). This increases circulation and removes toxins that are causing the pain from the tissues.
How do you treat sciatica
In many people with sciatica, the pain goes away without treatment within 4 weeks without any permanent damage. If your pain is not settling down after a few weeks, you should see your doctor. There are effective treatments available for sciatica. Some of the treatments are:
Pain control: There are different non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin for reducing inflammation. However, if your sciatica is due to a herniated disc, then it will not be helpful. Paracetamol a mild analgesic, and other pain relievers will also help to reduce back pain and keep you active.
Stay active: Once the pain is under control, your doctor may suggest you take physical therapy or an exercise program to strengthen your back or improve your posture. Prolonged bed rest is not a good idea as it can worsen lower back pain. For pain relief, a couple of days, in the beginning, may be helpful. However, longer bed rest will weaken the muscles that support the spine. For sciatica associated with the herniated disc, doctors encourage continued activity, those that do not cause pain.
Stretching and strengthening exercise: Gentle, passive exercises help to relieve compression of the spine. Many such exercises also focus on strengthening the spine support muscles. However, suitable stretching depends on the reason for sciatica. For example, there are a few specific stretching to relieve other conditions and they differ from the stretches for spinal stenosis sciatica. Exercises like pilates are useful for correcting poor muscle tone, core strength, and stability.
Massage: There is no scientific evidence that supports this but some people reported that massaging help relieve the pain. For example, releasing muscles that went into spasm.
Osteopathy (any bone disease): Sciatica patients commonly consult osteopaths for dealing with their condition and some of them find it helpful. In terms of scientific studies, osteopathy is not necessarily to relieve sciatica and there is no direct connection. However, some doctors recommend consulting an osteopath/physiotherapist for relieving the pain of sciatica and undertake programs for strengthening the condition of the lower back.
Physiotherapy: Your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist to develop a program for exercises to strengthen and stabilize your back’s condition to relieve pain.
Spinal manipulation: There is some evidence available that indicate that spinal manipulation is helpful for herniated disc sciatica. However, there are some concerns and a good chance of further damaging of the herniated discs by manipulating the spine. People with rheumatoid or osteoporosis should avoid spinal manipulation.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the skin at different points that are “believed” to sit on meridians that run through the body. There is no clear evidence that shows acupuncture is a good treatment for sciatica, but some people gain relief. It is not recommended but not forbidden as well.
Epidural steroid injections: Cortisone injections are useful for treating sciatica. This helps by suppressing the inflammation around the irritating area. Corticosteroid injections are able to provide short-term pain relief for people with the herniated lumbar disc. However, there is conflicting evidence of the effectiveness of this method.
Surgery: In case of severe sciatica, a spinal surgery may be necessary. The target is to make more room for the nerves to breathe. A discectomy is an open operation that requires only a small incision in the back. Through the incision, the herniated disc is removed which was constantly putting pressure on the nerves. Surgery may be necessary if pain cannot be relieved with therapies, or the pain is getting worse.
Sciatica is a nerve pain. Majority of sciatica cases can be controlled with simple home care to relieve pain. It usually goes away on its own after a period of rest and limited activities. Surgery may be necessary if the pain cannot be relieved with other therapies and you are still having numbness or weakness of the leg. If you are experiencing severe pain that interferes with your daily way of life, and the pain is accompanied by a loss of bladder or bowel control, this means that the nerve injury is serious. See your doctor ASAP to get advice and the treatment you need for better health. How do you treat sciatica should help you to know more about your condition.
Delores Powell: My passion is all about Health and Wellness, Success, and to help others succeed as well. Believe in yourself and you will achieve.