Sciatica is a condition characterized by pain in the legs and the lower back. It often also presents with tingling, numbness, and weakness in the lower limbs. This is the largest nerve in the human body and carries a huge number of signals between the legs and the brain.
Sciatica is caused by pressure placed on the nerve. This can be pressure caused by a damaged bone or joint, it can be pressure caused by a sprained or torn muscle, or it can be pressure caused by infection.
Because sciatica can have such a range of causes, the precise symptoms can vary slightly. The pain can be felt in different parts of the legs and the back and it might feel more like numbness and tingling, or more like sharp, shooting pains.
At the same time, this also means that sciatica needs to be treated differently depending on the precise cause. And of course, that also affects the prognosis.
In some cases, that means that sciatica can be treated very quickly and permanently. In others, it can be an ongoing chronic complaint.
Either way, here are sciatica treatments that can be very effective, depending on the precise nature and cause of the problem.
1. Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is care that revolves primarily around realigning the spine and correcting problems with the posture and the back. This is often done through a range of manipulation techniques, as well as other lifestyle adjustments and exercises that the patient can do at home.
You would be amazed at how realigning parts of your upper back or even your neck can result in an immediate improvement to your lower back – but this is how chiropractors work.
Sixty percent of people who didn’t get relief from other forms found that chiropractic care was useful. So, it’s worth giving it a try, even if nothing else seems to have worked.
Antibiotics are medications designed to treat infection and which can kill bacteria that might have entered a wound or tissue.
In some cases, sciatica will be caused by infection. This might be an infection of the surrounding tissue, which can cause swelling and thereby place pressure on the sciatic nerve. In other cases, however, it might also be an infection that is directly affecting the nerve itself. This can then cause pain, discomfort, and numbness. Fortunately, antibiotics will generally solve the problem quickly.
Corticosteroids are medications that can reduce swelling dramatically and are normally administered via an injection. These can be somewhat painful to use but will often result in an immediate reduction in swelling.
This is appropriate for all cases of sciatica, but for those that are caused by pressure being placed on the nerve by swelling, they can be very helpful and immediately address the issue.
4. Epidural Steroid Injections
When other forms of steroid injection don’t work, doctors might suggest an epidural. This is an injection that is administered directly into the lower back right near the sciatic nerve. This can not only eliminate the pain caused by the nerve but can also be used as a form of general pain relief for the lower part of the body.
In fact, if you have heard the term epidural, it’s probably in association with childbirth where it is one of the most effective forms of pain relief!
Note however that this is a painful procedure and does carry a larger amount of risk than other options on this list. For those reasons, you might be better to try other methods first and your physician will certainly push for this.
Analgesic is another term for pain killer or pain reliever. Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is often recommended as the best option as this can both help to combat the pain at the level of the brain and reduce swelling thereby eliminating some of the pressure being placed on the nerve route.
The best kind of OTC pain relievers, therefore, are ibuprofen and aspirin, both of which offer this double-effect.
6. Muscle Relaxants
You can get natural OTC muscle relaxants and more potent kinds administered by your doctor. Either way, relaxing the muscles surrounding the region can be useful and may help to relieve the pressure that is being caused by a tight or spasming muscle. This is particularly useful in the case of a sprain or a tear.
Eventually, this can even help to allow the sciatic nerve to move out from the pressure.
7. Physical Therapy
If you see your physician with sciatica, then often the first suggestion they give will be to see a physiotherapist. They will guide you through a series of exercises and manipulations to help you regain normal movement and to ease pain and discomfort.
A lot of the exercises such as spinal rocking can provide immediate relief, while others might be more focused on long-term rehabilitation. Either way, it is up to the patient to ensure that they carry out all the exercises they are given.
It is only if the problem does not improve after a couple of months that other more invasive treatments will be considered.
If the pain continues for multiple months, then the patient may be applicable for surgery. There are a number of different options here which will depend on the nature of the discomfort.
For example, if the sciatic nerve pain is caused by a herniated disc, then the treatment will involve repairing this damage. In this case, there is a good success rate with most patients experienced decreased pain and disability three months following the operation and lasting for up to four years.
This isn’t a permanent solution then, but can certainly provide an improvement to the quality of life.
Alternative surgeries involving the use of prosthetics and rods can also be considered.
Another type of surgery might involve the removal of a tumor. While uncommon, some forms of sciatica can be caused by a tumor that is either cancerous or benign. In either case, removing the offending mass can result in immediate long-term relief.
Massage therapy is a very straightforward approach to any kind of a pain but it can be very effective in this case, again depending on the nature of the condition.
This is particularly helpful if the condition is caused by a muscular problem such as a sprain, a tear, or a spasm.
At the very least though, massage releases painkilling endorphins and helps to relax the muscle and the area. Even if you can’t get a professional masseuse to help, sometimes just getting a good massage from a partner can be enough!
10. Other Therapies and Options
Finally, there are many more therapies and options which may prove helpful. These include but are not limited to acupuncture (it’s not backed by science, but some people find it helpful), yoga, TENS machines, and a range of other therapies.
The key takeaway here is that there are lots of options and as this condition varies so much from case to case, any of them could be the solution that you need specifically. Even if you haven’t found the answer yet, don’t give up – keep trying until you find that one thing that works for you.