Sciatica is referred to as the pain or irritation of the sciatic nerve. It has been found that around 4 in 10 people experience sciatic nerve pain at one point in their lives. The nerve originates from the lower spine on either side of the legs. It then travels down along the upper leg before splitting at the knees to cover the feet.
Before one seeks treatment for sciatic nerve pain, they must know the exact cause. Pain can result from anything that exerts pressure or irritates the nerves. This pain will be felt at the back of one thigh or buttock. The intensity of the pain might vary from one person to the other depending on the extent of pressure and the general health status. The pain may be mild, a burning sensation, sharp sting, or extreme discomfort. At its worst, one would feel numbness, a tingling feeling, and extreme weakness. It is worsened by long hours of sitting or standing, sneezing, coughing, straining, lifting, or twisting.
Types of sciatic nerve pain
Sciatic nerve pain may be divided into two types depending on the frequency of occurrence and the extent of pain experienced.
- Acute sciatica – The pain appears unannounced and may disappear within a short while. A common treatment option for this type of sciatic nerve pain could be using over-the-counter medicines. Exercises such as light walking and stretching could also help provide relief. Hot and cold treatment therapies are also recommended, with emphasis on the spot where one is experiencing the pain. One can only use self-medicating painkillers after identifying the cause of pain.
- Chronic sciatica – This pain is prolonged and will, therefore, require continued treatment or medication. One would need a medical diagnosis to ascertain that one is experiencing sciatic nerve pain and not anything else. The treatment options for this type of sciatic nerve pain would include physical therapy, cognitive behavior therapy to help one deal with the pain, and use of painkillers.
Treatment options for sciatica
Each patient usually experiences a unique type of pain. Some are mild while others are severe. Since one might not be able to live with the pain, one will have to seek immediate and professional treatment for sciatic nerve pain. In most cases, this treatment is meant to assist the individual to manage the pain to enable them to continue with normal, daily duties. The treatment options can be divided into natural and medical treatments.
Natural treatments for sciatic nerve pain
Natural treatments for sciatic nerve pain is recommended for people with chronic sciatica and patients who do not want to get tied to medication. The effectiveness of natural treatments will depend on its administration and how the body responds to the method one has chosen. Here are some of the popular natural treatment options one can consider.
- Chiropractic spinal adjustment – Ruptured or herniated discs are of different types. The extent of pain will depend on the discs affected. The doctor would detect the affected discs through X-rays and scans. Chiropractic adjustments can result in less pain, fewer days of pain, and reduced cases of severe pain compared to people who do not undertake the procedure.
- Stretching and yoga – Moving in certain ways can aggravate pain but it also causes relief. Yoga can help reduce stiffness and inflammation and provide effective relief. The yoga movements should focus on building strength, stretching the back, and relaxing the areas that are stiff.
- Massage therapy and acupuncture – Acupuncture has been in use for centuries to relieve chronic pain by opening energy channels. The tiny pain-free needles open pathways for energy and relax the muscles, leading to pain relief. Massage works in the same way. By exerting pressure and release on painful regions, one can relax and release the pain. It improves blood flow to affected areas, consequently providing effective treatment for sciatic nerve pain.
There are other natural methods that involve a change in lifestyle. One should avoid long sitting sessions. Move frequently and exercise the painful areas. One should include isometric exercises in their daily routine to improve mobility. Heat and cold pads can also be used and applied to painful areas. The pads are often placed for around 15–20 minutes on the lower back to get effective relief. Warm baths are also recommended because the heat causes the muscles to relax.
Medical treatment for sciatic nerve pain
Painkillers might only take away the pain for a moment. Once the power of these painkillers recedes, the pain would return. However, there are other, more permanent treatments are available. Lumbar laminectomy is a procedure that involves the widening of the spinal cord at the lower back. It is aimed at reducing the pressure on the nerves. Discectomy is another alternative where a herniated disc is removed partially or entirely.
Treatment for sciatic nerve pain is prescribed by a thorough medical examination. This enables the doctor to recommend the most effective treatment procedures. Hence, one should consult a doctor at the earliest for the treatment to work effectively.