Get relief from Sciatica pain with the doctors at LA Orthopedic Group.
Sciatica describes pain that follows the path of the sciatic nerve. Since this is a large nerve that extends from the lower back through the hips and down each leg, the pain extends from the lower back through the back of the leg.
- The intensity of the pain can vary from mild to excruciating
- Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body.
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Sciatica is caused by something pinching or compressing the sciatic nerve. In most cases, the nerve is being pinched by a herniated disc or bone spur. In rare cases, a tumor may be pinching the nerve. Other possible causes of sciatica include the following conditions:
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition in which one vertebra slides over another one
- Muscle spasms in the buttocks or back
- Lumbar spinal stenosis, a condition in which the spinal canal in the lower back becomes abnormally narrow
Wearing high heels, being overweight and/or sedentary, and sleeping on an overly soft mattress all increase the risk of developing sciatica.
Seeking Medical Attention
Mild sciatica often goes away on its own. A patient can therefore try to treat the sciatica at home. If the home treatments don’t work, and the pain persists for over a week, the patient should call their doctor. They should also call a doctor if the pain is severe and/or getting worse. The patient needs to get immediate medical help if any of the following are true:
- The sciatica started after a violent accident such as a car crash
- The patient can’t control their bladder or bowels
- The patient has muscle weakness or numbness in their leg accompanied by severe and sudden pain in their leg or back
In mild cases, the patient can usually take care of the sciatica themselves. They can take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen to relieve the pain. For the first couple of days, they may use cold packs several times a day for up to 20 minutes per session. After a few days, they should switch to hot packs or a heating pad. Stretching exercises can also help.
If the patient doesn’t get better, their doctor will probably prescribe pain medications. They may also recommend anticonvulsants like pregabalin that can treat nerve pain. Some antidepressants like duloxetine can also relieve nerve pain. The doctor may prescribe diazepam if the patient also has muscle spasms. In severe cases that haven’t responded to other treatments, the doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections. The effects of such injections can last for months.
Once the pain is under control, the doctor will recommend physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles and increase the spine’s flexibility. The therapist will teach the patient a variety of exercises, and they will encourage the patient to improve their posture and reduce strain on their back.
A patient with sciatica usually will not need surgery, but the doctor will recommend it under the following circumstances:
- The sciatica is caused by an identifiable problem like a herniated disc or bone spur
- The patient has severe symptoms that are getting worse
- The patient has not responded to other, more conservative treatments