You’ve probably known someone (if you haven’t had it yourself) who has suffered from sciatica. Sciatica is inflammation of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body. When the sciatic nerve is compressed, it sends pain down the entire nerve pathway, meaning from the lumbar region of the spine into the buttock and down the back of the leg. The pain can even show up in the sole of the foot on the affected side.
At Coastal Spine, we have various methods for addressing a patient’s sciatica.
How is sciatica treated?
It’s estimated that up to 40 percent of the population will experience sciatica at least once in their lives. In most cases, the issues will usually resolve with conservative treatments within about 6 weeks. These milder cases are usually acute sciatica.
Most cases of acute sciatica respond well to self-care measures such as these:
- Over-the-counter painkillers
- Cold packs — An ice pack placed on the painful area for up to 20 minutes several times daily.
- Hot packs — After two or three days of pain, apply heat to the painful areas. If the pain continues, alternate hot and cold.
- Walking stretches the legs and back.
- Light Stretching exercises for the low back. Try to not bounce or jerk but hold stretches for at least 30 seconds.
If the above options don’t improve your sciatica, we will move on to more involved treatments:
- Medications — We may prescribe these medications: muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications.
- Physical therapy — Once your pain improves, physical therapy can help you strengthen the muscles supporting your back, improve your flexibility, and correct your posture.
- Steroid injections — Injections of corticosteroid medication into the area around the irritate nerve root can be very effective. These injections can last for a number of months. They can only be given periodically, however, as overuse can lead to serious side effects.
- Surgery — Surgery is definitely a last resort for sciatica, which usually will clear up on its own. But if the patient has a compressed nerve that is creating muscle weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, or pain that is not responding to any other therapy, surgery can be a good option. These surgeries are usually done with minimally invasive methods to access the area of the spine affected and remove the bone spur or herniated disc that is compressing the nerve.
Do you have pain radiating down through your buttock and into your leg? You may be suffering from sciatica. Call the team at Coastal Spine, (856) 222-4444, to make an appointment at one of our five New Jersey locations so that we can help.