The sciatic nerve is the longest in the body, beginning at the spinal cord, running through the hips and buttocks, and branching down each leg. Sciatica refers to moderate or severe pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve due to injury or irritation. It commonly occurs when a herniated disk in your lumbar spine compresses part of the nerve. Most cases can be resolved with non-surgical sciatica treatment in a few weeks.
The hallmark symptom of sciatica is pain that extends from your lower back down to the back of your thigh and calf. Usually, only one side of your body is affected. The pain can range from a mild ache to a sharp, burning sensation, which can worsen when you sneeze or cough. Some patients also describe feeling like a jolt or electric shock. Other symptoms of sciatica include:
- Pain that gets worse with movement
- Lower back and/or hip pain
- Pain in the rear or leg that is worse when sitting
- Constant pain on one side of the rear
- Shooting pain that makes it hard to stand up
- Burning or tingling down the leg, feet, or toes
- Weakness, numbness, or a hard time moving the leg or foot
How Sciatica is Diagnosed?
If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned, it’s time to seek sciatica treatment as soon as possible. Set an appointment with your doctor for a physical exam. Your muscle strength and reflexes will most likely be assessed. For instance, you may be asked to rise from a squatting position, walk on your toes or heels, and lift your legs while lying on your back. If you feel pain during these activities, the doctor will order imaging tests to determine underlying conditions like herniated discs or bone spurs.
- X-ray – used to reveal overgrowth of bone that might be pressing on the sciatic nerve.
- MRI – used to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of bone and soft tissues of the back.
- CT scan – used to image the spine, spinal cord and spinal nerves.
- EMG – used to test the electrical impulses produced by the nerves and responses of the muscles.
Certain factors can raise your risk of developing sciatica. For instance, it can occur because of irritation of the sciatic nerve during pregnancy. It can develop in people with careers that involve putting a lot of strain on the back such as sitting for extended periods, twisting movements, or lifting heavy objects. As you age, the risk increases even more since the bones of the spine will start to wear out or break down.
How is Sciatica Treated?
Patients with mild symptoms are often asked to try home remedies like switching cold and hot packs for the lower back and a couple of good stretches. If pain doesn’t improve through self-care measures, your doctor may suggest other options like medications, steroid injections, sciatica pain relief massage, physical therapy. Most people get better in a few weeks without surgery, but it’s still considered as the last resort.
- Medications – Doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications to help relieve pain. However, they are only a short-term solution.
- Physical Therapy – Once acute pain is controlled, doctors recommend physiotherapy for sciatica relief and rehabilitation to prevent future injuries. Therapists design a tailored program which includes exercises to correct posture, improve flexibility, and strengthen the muscles supporting the back.
- Myofascial release – This advanced massage technique is used to work on the muscles and soft tissues of the back, hips, buttocks, and legs in people with sciatica. It helps reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve and increases pain threshold by stimulating the release of endorphins.
Experiencing chronic low back pain? Book an appointment with the experts at Scandinavian Physiotherapy Center today! They cater to a wide range of health issues and disorders of the muscles, spinal and peripheral joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and nerves. They specialize in musculoskeletal physiotherapy, sports rehabilitation, manual therapy and deep tissue massage. Contact +971 4 551 6126 for more information.