Sciatica is a painful symptom of an impinged sciatic nerve. Sometimes the flare-ups can be very short lived, and other times they happen multiple times over days or weeks, depending on what is occurring in the lumbar spine that’s causing these episodes. While sciatica can resolve itself at times, there are other times it needs to be treated so that it doesn’t get worse. The way to treat it is to get to the root of the problem.
Nonsurgical Sciatica Treatment
Nonsurgical sciatica treatment is designed to relieve pain and any other symptoms that result from the nerve root being compressed. There are many options available for treating sciatica, such as:
- Pain medications – Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, are effective in alleviating pain and the inflammation that can lead to pressure on the nerve root. Muscle relaxants can also help since tightened or swollen muscles can be the reason behind the sciatic nerve being compressed.
- Heat and ice – Heat and ice packs may need to be used to alleviate the pain, especially when it first starts. You can place ice on the lumbar area of the affected side for 20 minutes and then apply heat for 20 minutes. This should be done every two hours.
- Steroid injections – Steroid injections can relieve the inflammation, thus relieving the pain. The injection goes straight to the affected area around the sciatic nerve so that the inflammation can be addressed. While the injection is temporary, it is effective in providing relief.
- Chiropractic care – Manual manipulation can address the issue that is causing the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- Acupuncture – This is an alternative treatment method that many people state has been effective for them. The FDA has approved acupuncture for the treatment of back pain.
- Massage therapy – Massage therapy has proven to be quite effective due to increasing blood flow to the affected area.
- Physical therapy and exercise – This addresses the cause of the pain. Sometimes strengthening the affected area can make a significant difference in the number of flare-ups.
When Surgery Is Considered
There are times where surgery may need to be considered. If leg pain has persisted for up to six weeks or more, nonsurgical methods have been unsuccessful, and the patient’s ability to carry out everyday activities is limited, surgery may be an option. Surgery is mostly for those who are experiencing loss of bowel or bladder control or progressive leg weakness. The two main types of surgery that are used to address the issue are microdiscectomy and lumbar laminectomy.
Microdiscectomy addresses disc herniation in the lumbar spine and involves the removal of a portion of the affected disc so that pressure on the nerve can be relieved. Lumbar laminectomy involves the removal of a portion of disc material or bone that may be pinching the nerve root. Keep in mind that surgery is your decision and no one else’s. Make sure the risks and benefits are first discussed with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision.