What is Sciatica?
Sciatica refers to a sharp pain that occurs along the path of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve branches from the lower back all through to the hips and buttocks, down to each leg. Generally, sciatica affects only side of your body. The pain is quite excruciating and makes standing or sitting nearly impossible. The pain may get worse if you sneeze, sit or cough.
Pain that is associated with sciatica can be quite severe, but the good news is that in most cases, it can be resolved with just a conservative treatment in just a few weeks. If you have extended severe sciatica after six weeks of treatment, the best option is surgery that helps relieve the pressure on the nerve.
What are the Causes of Sciatica?
Sciatica may result from a situation of pinched nerve whereby one or more of the lower spinal nerves is affected. The nerve may become pinched inside or outside of the usual spinal canal.
The most common conditions that cause sciatica are;
- Piriformis syndrome which develops when a small muscle that lies deep in the buttocks known as piriformis muscle becomes tight and puts more pressure on the sciatic nerve causing irritation.
- A herniated disc that exerts pressure on the roots of the nerve. This is termed as the main cause of sciatica.
- Spondylolisthesis which is the slippage of one vertebra by removing it from the one above it thus narrowing the opening which serves as the nerve exit.
- Spinal stenosis is simply a condition that mostly occurs when the spinal canal narrows slightly due to pressure on the nerves.
What are the Treatment Options for Sciatica?
The main aim of treating Sciatica is to lessen the pain. Therefore, treatment often includes limited rest session on a mattress/floor, use of medication to treat pain and inflammation and physical therapy. The doctor may also decide to develop a special exercise program to help fight sciatica.
Medication: Pain medicines and drugs help in relieving pain thus allowing increased mobility and exercise. Over the counter medicines known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, (NSAIDs) can be used in pain relief. They include ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.
Others such as muscle relaxants with the likes of cyclobenzaprine may be prescribed to help relieve the discomfort that results from muscle spasms. Remember that such medication should be prescribed depending on the level of pain they may cause confusion in older people.
Spinal Injections: Taking an injection of cortisone such as anti-inflammatory into the lower back help reduce the swelling as well inflammation of the nerve roots.
Physical therapy: Use of exercises that decrease sciatic pain will help in dealing with sciatica. The main exercises that will be part of the program include stretching/strengthening exercises as well as low impact aerobic exercises. Such exercises helps improve the flexibility of tight muscles.
Surgery: After all the above treatment options fail, surgery is recommended for those people who do not respond to conservative treatment and who do not show any symptoms of progress. Surgical options that are available include;
- Microdiscectomy-A procedure that is used to remove fragments of herniated disc.
- Laminectomy- This involves the removal of the bone that curves around the spinal cord together with the tissue that causes pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Other treatment options that have been found to be quite helpful in dealing with Sciatica are yoga and acupuncture exercises. Massage may also play a part in helping the muscle spasms that occur along with sciatica. These are referred to as alternative therapies.
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With three locations in Boulder, Greeley and Loveland, Colorado Clinic has the top pain management doctors available. Most insurance is accepted, call today!