From time to time, we experience some pain in the lower back and we may not know what caused it. Sometimes we ignore the symptoms, as we believe it could go away in a few hours or days. But there will be occurrences when we cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong with our body. Before any kind of discomfort turns completely unbearable, you ought to visit your doctor.
Sciatica happens when there is irritation or pain in the sciatic nerve, the body’s largest nerve. Usually, the pain is felt from the lower back to behind the thighs and down to the knees. Treatments for this condition vary, depending on how severe the pain is and what caused it.
While sciatica is commonly caused by a herniation in the lumbar disc, there are many other factors that could be its source; in fact, any inflammation or discomfort in the sciatic nerve can result in the condition. The irritation of nerves due to an abnormal intervertebral disc is called radiculopathy.
Other reasons for suffering sciatica include irritation of the nerve from tumors, internal bleeding, infections in or near the lumbar spine, and adjacent bone. Moreover, a woman may experience sciatica during her pregnancy.
When there is a feeling of numbness or soreness, especially if the symptom/s has become chronic, in the lower back down to the knees, seek medical help as soon as possible.
Sometimes, sciatica treatment is not necessary because the body will just relieve the symptoms naturally. In some cases, applying hot or cold compress on the back is already enough. But in the event of persistent symptoms, certain treatments will be needed.
Your doctor may recommend some simple routine exercises for you. It is imperative to be physically active at all times when you have sciatica. Start by making a daily habit of walking to work or stretching every morning. These exercises will strengthen your muscles and prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
Getting plenty or rest, of course, is advisable to relax the body. But staying in bed too frequently will not improve your condition.
As part of maintaining an active lifestyle, your general practitioner may refer you to a physiotherapist who can teach you some exercises that can boost your muscle strength for back support, apart from the daily morning walks and stretches. The drills you will be told to do will likewise increase your spine’s flexibility. In addition, the health specialist will tell you to keep a proper posture, particularly when sitting to prevent any strain that an incorrect sitting position might trigger.
If symptoms of pain persist even after performing exercises, the doctor will prescribe painkillers. Getting some rest or sleep, for instance, will be difficult without taking medication for the soreness.
A number of medication can be prescribed for pain, including NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or paracetamol. For severe cases, morphine may be advised.
Tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs, while they ought to be used for treating patients with depression, can be useful for relieving nerve pain. The same goes with anti-convulsants; they are used primarily for treating epilepsy, but they also prove to treat pain in the nerves.
Medication may not be for everyone. If there are still symptoms of sciatica even after taking adequate doses, a specialist may be required.
Getting spinal injections is another option to relieve sciatica if other methods don’t work. A specialist may inject a local anaesthetic or spinal cortisoid. They contain painkilling and anti-inflammatory components to stop the aches in the nerves by releasing pressure on the sciatic nerve.
It is only in rare cases that a patient will need surgery for sciatica treatment. Usually it is used when the cause of the condition cannot be identified, like a ruptured disc in the spine.
Laminectomy – this surgical procedure is conducted for patients suffering from spinal stenosis. What is specifically done in this process is the removal of a lamina, a portion of vertebrae.
Fusion surgery – if a vertebra has slipped out of place, this surgical procedure is performed. Surgeons will fuse the affected vertebra by using a plastic or metal cage that’s supported by metal screws and rods.
Discectomy – in cases of a herniated or slipped disc, this procedure is done to remove the damaged disc to help relieve the pain and stop further damage that the condition may cause. This is also the most common out of the three procedures.
Most surgeries are successful, but all come with risks; a slip-up in spinal surgery could mean living life with paralysis. In less severe situations, infections could also happen. Thus, before considering spinal surgery, weigh the risks and benefits that it can provide you.
Apart from the medical treatments, there are patients would go for sciatica treatment alternative, and they have proven to be effective. The most common of them are acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, and massage therapy.
Acupuncture – this practice is centered on the attitude of getting and staying healthy with the open flow of energy through particular “pathways” in the body. Thin needles are introduced to the skin around the affected area; as they are inserted, no feeling of pain or tingling can be felt.
Chiropractic manipulation – a licensed chiropractor, physical therapist, or osteopathic physician will make adjustments to your spine for better alignment. This can address indications of soreness in the sciatic nerve and the areas affected by it.
Massage therapy – overall, a good massage helps improve blood circulation, release of endorphins, and muscle relaxation. This could also aid in relieving sciatica pain.
Normal instances of sciatica will have a healing process ranging from a few days to a few weeks. Some will require no medication or treatment, and some will do. In any case, upon an indication of pain in the lower back and behind the thighs and down to the knees, you should seek medical help, as it could either be a minor or severe case of sciatica; it is only when you get a checkup that you find out what treatment should be used for you.