Have you ever experienced such excruciating pain that standing up becomes a great difficulty? Sometimes, sitting down makes the pain even worse. A lot of people may be doing something so simple and yet a certain body movement would cause them unbearable pain. You may be experiencing sciatica.
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica, or sciatic nerve pain, is a condition in which the sciatic nerves in the body become inflamed. Sciatic nerves are found beginning at the lower spine and continue down the buttocks area, back of the legs, and into the feet. Symptoms of sciatica is characterized by a light tingling feeling or burning sensation to a full blown shooting pain that travels from the lower back, buttocks area, back of legs, and/or feet. More often than not, sciatic nerve pain affects only one side, although it could also be possible to run down both legs.
Sciatica could be a frightening experience especially if you do not realize what is happening. One may begin to feel like he/she will become crippled. However, most of the time sciatica can be treated effectively.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica may occur when the nerve in the lower spine become pinched, or if there is a slipped disk. Arthritis or a sprained ligament will narrow the passageways of the nerves which may cause the nerve endings to become tender and inflamed. Other causes of sciatica include an abscess, growth, or blood clot. But these can be rare.
Treatment of Sciatica
Since sciatic nerve pain is caused by a combined pressure and inflammation on the nerve root, treatment is generally focused on relieving both of these factors through non-surgical treatments and/or surgical methods.
Non-surgical sciatic nerve pain treatment may include one or a combination of medical treatments and alternative (non-medical) treatments. Most of the time, it includes some form of exercise and stretching.
If you are experiencing sciatica, it is advised to stay off your feet for the first few days. One of the things you must avoid is to get up and down repeatedly as this will only cause the nerve to become more irritated. Though some quarters pose question on the benefits of bed rest, still it is advisable at least for the first few days.
It may feel soothing to soak in warm baths to ease the pain. However, do not use heating pads while the nerve is inflamed. Prolonged heat will draw the inflammation in and will keep the swelling high. Rather, most healthcare professionals would advise the application of ice packs directly on the lower back area for 20 minutes at a time, every couple of hours. This may feel a little uncomfortable, but the cold packs will greatly help in reducing the swelling. Using mineral ice is also a good alternative in soothing the pain and offers a temporary sciatic relief.
Though some doctors may prescribe muscle relaxants for temporary relief of pain, caution is advised as to the side effects of these types of prescription drugs. Some medications can be addictive, or may give a false sense of feeling better.
Massage therapy is considered to be a highly effective non-surgical treatment as it can keep your spine in better alignment for longer periods of time. As soon as your back begins to heal, your doctor may give you stretching and low impact exercises so that your muscles won't stiffen too much. Be sure to engage in exercise only when your doctors approve it.
Alternative treatments that you might find available and helpful are accupressure, accupuncture, herbal therapies, homeopathy, biofeedback, and guided imagery to name just a few.
Surgical methods to remove the portion of the disc that is irritating the nerve root are micro discectomy or lumbar laminectomy, and discectomy. Surgery helps relieve both the pressure and the inflammation especially if the sciatic nerve pain is severe and has not been relieved through medical treatments.