Sciatica is a term used to describe the symptoms of leg pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness that travel down the low back via the sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. Sciatica (sometimes described as radiculopathy) is a description of symptoms, it is NOT a diagnosis.
What causes Sciatica?
- Lumbar Herniated Disc
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Degenerative Disc Disease
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Spondylolisthesis (instability of the spine)
and many other things…
Facts About Sciatica Treatments
The Causes of Sciatica Must Be Treated on an Individualized Basis
Because of the many conditions that can compress nerve roots and cause sciatica, one patient’s treatment options may be very different than those of another.
Sciatica Can Last for Much Longer, Depending on the Cause
Many cases of sciatica go away within a few weeks using conservative treatment methods. However, this is not the case for all patients. For some, sciatica can last much longer, even for several months.
Surgery May Be the Best Treatment Option for Some Patients
Patients should avoid having surgery too soon or too late. Although many patients hope to avoid surgery, for some, surgery might be the best (and quickest) option for pain relief.
Exercise Is Usually Critical to Help Heal the Problem Causing Sciatica
Some patients believe that staying in bed and avoiding physical activity is the best idea when sciatica occurs. For the initial flare up of sciatica, bed rest is usually fine for a day or two. However, avoiding activity any longer can typically lead to a downward spiral where episodes of pain lead to inactivity, leading to more pain, and so on.
It Is Best to Work With a Professional Before Self-Treating Sciatica
Patients with sciatica should not attempt to self-treat their condition without consulting a health professional. Establishing a correct diagnosis is the first step towards sciatica relief, as the sciatica treatment options and precautions are different for each diagnosis.
Nonsurgical Treatments for Sciatica
The goals of nonsurgical sciatica treatments are to relieve pain and any neurological symptoms caused by a compressed nerve root. There is a broad range of options available for sciatica treatment. One or more of the treatments below are usually recommended in conjunction with specific exercises.
For acute sciatic pain, heat and/or ice packs are readily available and can help alleviate the leg pain, especially in the initial phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes, and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated. It is best to apply ice with a cloth or towel placed between the ice and skin to avoid an ice burn.
- Pain Medications
Over-the-counter or prescription medications are often effective in reducing or relieving sciatica pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen), or oral steroids can reduce the inflammation that is usually part of the cause of pain. Muscle relaxants or narcotic medications may also be prescribed for the short term (a few days and up to 2 weeks) to alleviate pain.