Sciatica is a common type of pain that involves the sciatic nerve, which is a large nerve stretching down the back of each leg from the lower back.
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated or slipped disk resulting in pressure on the root of the nerve. With time and self-care treatments, most people with sciatica get better on their own.
Other common causes of sciatica:
- Spinal stenosis (narrowed spaces within the spine)
- Spondylolisthesis (one of the spine’s bones falls out of place)
What are the symptoms?
Here are the symptoms that can indicate you might have sciatica:
- Pain with every movement that gets worse
- Numbness or weakness on your legs or feet which is usually felt along your sciatic nerve
- Experience a loss of feeling or movement in severe cases
- Feel the sensation of pins and needles in your toes or feet
- Experience incontinence (the inability to control your bladder or bowel movement)
What are the treatments?
1) Cold Compress
You can make your ice pack at home or buy it in a local supermarket. For the first few days of pain, apply it to the affected area for 10-20 minutes per session , several times a day. Cold compress reduces swelling and eases the pain.
2) Hot Compress
Just like the previous one, you can make a hot compress at home or buy in the nearest drugstore or supermarket in your area. For the first two to three days, use cold compress then switch to hot compress afterward. If the pain continues, try to alternate cold and hot compress.
Stretching the lower back is helpful to ease the sciatica pain. You need to learn how to stretch it properly. You can learn it from your physiotherapist. We have an in-house physiotherapist experienced in guiding patients on doing the low backstretch
4) Over the counter (OTC) Drugs
OTCs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can also aid in alleviating pain, inflammation, and swelling. Be careful about using aspirin excessively, since it can cause complications, such as stomach bleeding and ulcers.
Exercise also relieves sciatica pain. Practicing active exercise is very important for the optimum health of your spinal discs. Exercise helps with the exchange of nutrients and fluids within spinal discs to keep them healthy and prevent sciatica.
Physiotherapy helps improve posture and strengthen back muscles.
7) Prescribed Drugs
Doctors can provide prescriptions for muscle relaxants and narcotic pain reliever, if necessary.
8) Epidural Steroid Medication
These corticosteroid drugs are injected into your epidural space, which is the canal that surrounds your spinal cord.
Spine surgery is seldom deemed necessary to combat pain caused by sciatica. However, if conservative treatments no longer work and the pain becomes severe and intolerable, then doctors may decide to have you undergo surgery.
The two most common types of surgery for sciatica are discectomy and microdiscectomy.
Microdiscectomy is a surgical approach for the spinal disc removal and is done through a small cut while you are unconscious due to general anesthesia.
On the other hand, discectomy is removing a part of the spinal disc pressing on the sciatic nerve.
Other surgical approaches are the following:
This surgical approach removes a part or all of the lamina to provide more room for the spinal nerves. It is commonly recommended for sciatica caused by lumbar spinal stenosis.
In this procedure, the surgeon removes bony overgrowth resulting to an extra room at the sides of your spinal vertebrae. The goal of foraminotomy is to relieve pressure on the nerves to lessen the pain from sciatica.
The facet joints provide stability to your spinal column. These joints are trimmed, undercut, or removed in facetectomy. This is performed to provide relief for compression on pinched nerves, which is caused by deteriorating facet joints.
Tips to Prevent Sciatica
Daily exercise is recommended. Also, strengthening your back muscles and core are the keys to keep and maintain a healthy back. And this, in turn, means lesser chances of having sciatica.
Practice proper posture as often as you can. Carefully watch yourself when sitting on a chair. Make sure that your chair provides adequate support for your back. Slouching and improper posture can become contributory factors for sciatica in the long run.
Take note of how you move from time to time. Always make sure to lift heavy objects in the correct way. Ask your physiotherapist on how to protect your back at all times to prevent spinal pain or sciatica.