When to seek sciatica treatment
Many people experience mild sciatica at some time in their lives; some will have repeated episodes while others will never have it again. Most people who have mild sciatica don’t go to the doctor, thinking that the pain will “just go away” – and of course, they are quite right. Rest, applying heat or cold packs and over-the-counter analgesics will commonly relieve the pain of mild sciatica and the symptoms generally disappear in a few days.
However, if the pain is severe or you find that you cannot move during an attack of sciatica, it is important to consult your doctor. Remembering that sciatica is a symptom of another problem, if it is severe or debilitating you need a firm diagnosis of the condition that is causing the sciatic pain. Also, if you find that sciatica strikes frequently or regularly, your pain lasts for longer than a week or it gets progressively worse, you should also go to the doctor. Sciatica is rarely life-threatening but you do need a correct diagnosis so that the most suitable treatment can be given.
Immediate medical attention should be sought if your pain follows an accident or injury, if you have problems with bowel or bladder control or if the pain strikes suddenly and is associated with numbness or weakness in your leg.
Treatments your doctor may suggest
Sciatic pain is caused when the root of the sciatic nerve becomes pinched, compressed or inflamed due to a misalignment of the vertebrae and the discs that separate them, acting as cushions. The most common cause is a herniated disc which is when a disc tears and the gel-like filling seeps out and presses on the sciatic nerve.
Sciatica treatment is aimed at the inflammation that usually occurs around the affected nerve and causes the pain. Simple drugs containing codeine or ibuprofen may be used or more powerful steroidal drugs could be prescribed. Some of the more powerful anti-inflammatory drugs do have potential side-effects so be sure to ask your doctor about these. Over-the-counter and prescription pain medication may be used instead of or in conjunction with anti-inflammatory medication.
In severe cases, cortisone injections into the affected area of the spine are proving to be effective at relieving sciatica pain. While surgery is not usually needed in sciatica treatment, patients who experience repeated episodes and need on-going medication may be candidates for a surgical procedure. Sometimes the ruptured disc is removed or the bone is opened up around the affected nerve to relieve the irritation.
The primary treatment for sciatica has always been rest, in the first instance. Lying down or even sitting comfortable can greatly relieve sciatica pain. Often, a couple of days of bed rest are all that is needed to relieve sciatica symptoms. If the pain is worrying, simple pain medication can be taken at the same time. When the pain has subsided, physical therapy or exercise may be prescribed to help strengthen the core muscles to help the spine stay in alignment.
However, recent scientific research has shown that rest is not as effective as once thought and that staying more active could be the best treatment for sciatica. Suggested activities include walking or specific exercises which stretch and strengthen the muscles of the torso. Mainstream sciatica treatments are focused on treating the symptoms, especially the pain, and so do little to solve the problem causing your sciatica.
Alternative Treatments –
Natural and Alternative medicine also plays a role on the treatment of sciatica. Homeopathy, Herbal Medicine, Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, Osteopathy and Chiropractic all have treatments for sciatica. Supplements of calcium, magnesium, St John’s Wort, Evening Primrose and Vitamin B12 have been shown to be effective in treating sciatica.
Massage therapy relaxes tight muscles and stiffness that is caused by sciatica and gentle stretching exercises help with the pain. Spinal manipulation and adjustments aim at producing better spinal alignment which addresses several underlying causes of sciatica.
Self-care treatments at home
Mild cases of sciatica will usually get better without any treatment and many people just take their normal pain medication to get some relief from the pain of sciatica. Applying ice when the pain first starts and then changing to a heat pack will also ease your pain.
You will be able to figure out whether you are better resting or keeping active when you have sciatica pain; whether heat or ice is more soothing; whether you need more than simple analgesics – sciatica treatment can be different for everyone.
Prolonged rest can make sciatica pain worse so only rest for a day or two to help your pain subside. A physical therapist can show you appropriate exercises you can do regularly to strengthen your core muscles, reduce any stress on your lower back and keep your spine in alignment.
For most people, their sciatica responds positively to this type of self-care regime. Regular exercise is a vital activity to add to your lifestyle; just a moderate walk or swim for 30 minutes on most days of the week will keep you fit, healthy and happy. Additional sciatica treatment is mainly needed when pain doesn’t subside or occurs too frequently.