Sciatic Nerve Pain – Achieving Sciatica Treatment

Posted on 30. Nov, 2010 by in Sciatica Pain

Sciatica is not a disorder at all but a term used to describe symptoms that occur when the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back, down into the buttocks and down each leg is being compressed or pinched. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in your body and enables you to move your lower extremities and allows for sensation. When pressure is being place on it, it can greatly affect your ability to do your normal daily activities.

What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?

Since all that is needed to show signs of sciatica is compression of the sciatic nerve, there are many different conditions that can cause it. These conditions include the following.

Herniated Disc – This is the most common cause of sciatica and is also known as a slipped disc, or a bulging disc. A herniated disc occurs when the fluid inside an intervertebral disc pushes out into the spinal canal.

Tumors – These are quite rare and can be cancerous or non-cancerous growths that form inside the spinal canal. Tumors that grow too large will need to be surgically removed.

Piriformis Syndrome – This is a syndrome that occurs when the piriformis muscle located right above the sciatic nerve becomes swollen or spastic; when this occurs the muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve.

Spondylolisthesis – This is a disorder that can affect the lumbar region of the spine and is caused by a vertebra slipping forward and onto another vertebra. The degree of slippage can vary greatly from just a small amount to completely falling off the supporting vertebra.

Injuries or Trauma – This can be a result of a blow to the lower back or an accident that causes swelling that compresses the nerves in the spine. This could be from an automobile accident, a fall, or as a result of some sports activity.

Sciatica Symptoms

  • Pain that may affects only one side of the body; the pain can be dull, sharp, or burning
  • Pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down into the lower extremities
  • A deep pain that may worsen if you sit or stand for long periods of time because there is more stress on the lower back when you do so
  • Pain that increases when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or bend backwards
  • Muscle weakness in your lower extremities
  • Numbness or tingling that radiates from the lower back, down into the buttocks and legs
  • In very severe cases of sciatica you may have difficulty walking
  • A change in your bowel or bladder function. You may be incontinent or you may be unable to urinate or defecate. These symptoms could be signs of cauda equina syndrome and you should seek immediate medical attention if you have these symptoms.

Sciatica Pain Relief

Most of the time sciatica, or back pain in general, responds very well to conservative therapies and treatments. These treatments are non-surgical in nature and should be used for at least 3 months before looking into other more aggressive therapies or surgery.

Most of these treatments can be done yourself but in the case of physical therapy you should work with a therapist to make sure you are doing your exercises and stretches properly.

Sciatica Treatment

Depending on how severe your pain is, you may only require over-the-counter medications. Prescription drugs may be required for more severe cases of sciatic nerve pain. You should keep in mind that these medications are only masking the pain and you will still need to work on healing the back so that you are not reliant on medication for the rest of your life.

Physical Therapy
Physical therapy can be broken down into 2 parts: passive treatments and active treatments. A few of the passive treatments that can be used include the following.

  • Ice/Heat Therapy – Ice therapy can reduce swelling and pain. Heat therapy can also reduce pain and increase blood flow into the area.
  • Massage Therapy – This treatment can be helpful if your pain is due to a muscular problem, and it can also increase joint mobility and promote healing.
  • Acupuncture – This is an ancient healing practice in which needles are placed in certain areas of the body: heat or electrical stimulation may or may not be applied to the needles. This practice helps the body release endorphins, the body’s natural pain regulators.
  • Ultrasound – This therapy uses sound waves to penetrate deep down into the skin; this can increase the blood flow into the area and may be able to increase healing and reduce pain.
  • TEN’s Units – A TEN’s unit is a small device that deliverers an electrical current to the body through electrodes that are placed on the skin. The electrical impulses can prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

Active forms of physical therapy are as follows.

  • Exercise and Stretching – Both of these would be used after your pain is being managed and can help reduce your pain by increasing the strength, range of motion, flexibility, and stability of your back.

Epidural Steroid Injections
These can be administered if oral medications are unable to control your pain. Because the medications are injected directly to the source of the pain, these treatments are more effective than oral medications. Unfortunately these injections are only temporary and last only a few weeks to a few months.

Sciatica Surgery

This would only be attempted after all conservative therapies fail and you are unable to deal with your pain. Your surgical options will of course depend on the underlying cause of your sciatica but it may include a laminectomy or microdiscectomy.

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