Sciatica is the term used to describe nerve pain that radiates from your lower back through the hips and buttocks and down one leg. It can affect either side but typically only affects one side.
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk or a bone spur on a vertebra which impinges (compresses) the sciatic nerve. This impingement can cause pain, inflammation, numbness, and tingling in the affected leg.
The pain from sciatica can be very severe, but in most cases can be resolved through conservative treatments within two or three weeks. If the pain persists for six weeks or more surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure on the nerve.
People who are the most susceptible to sciatica are middle aged persons, especially if they have strenuous jobs requiring frequent bending and heavy lifting, or prolonged periods of sitting such as office workers and professional drivers like truck drivers, height is a factor as well. Persons having sustained lower back injuries are also more susceptible to sciatica. At any one point in time, over 1% of the US population is suffering from sciatica.
What treatments are available for sciatica?
Physical therapy can often help relieve symptoms of sciatica, this involves your doctor or therapist designing an exercise program to help correct your posture and strengthen your back.
Treatment with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen and Naproxen Sodium can help alleviate inflammation which may ease the pressure on the nerve. Muscle relaxers can also be used to treat sciatica. As with any neuropathy (nerve induced pain), other medications that are used successfully are anti-seizure medications and tricyclic antidepressants. If these medications prove unsuccessful in relieving pain your doctor may prescribe opioid analgesics to provide pain relief to help you tolerate physical therapy.
In more serious cases of sciatica when oral medications have proven ineffective, your doctor may recommend an injection of corticosteroids to help reduce pain by reducing inflammation around the impinged nerve; this eases the pressure on the nerve and so alleviates the pain. These injections have proven to be quite effective in relieving the symptoms of sciatica.
Do you need surgery for Sciatica?
For cases of sciatica when no oral medications have been effective and when corticosteroids have proven ineffective, it may be necessary for surgical intervention in order to correct the issue as a last resort. Surgery for sciatica involves either removing a bone spur that is impinging the nerve or correcting a herniated or bulging disc that is impinging the nerve.
Discuss your condition with your Colorado pain doctor. It may be necessary for you to undergo an MRI or CT scan in order for the doctor to get a clear image of exactly what is causing the sciatica in order to determine the best course of action.