Whether the pain develops suddenly and unexpectedly or gradually over time, sciatica symptoms may disrupt your daily life. Although the degree and length of your sciatica symptoms vary, it rarely turns into a chronic pain condition.
At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Germantown, and Waldorf, Maryland, our pain management and orthopedic specialists, Dr. Matthew Roh and Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi, have years of experience treating sciatic nerve pain. Here, they share some information about the pain-relieving treatments available for your sciatica.
The underlying cause of your sciatica
Though often grouped with back pain conditions, sciatica is a type of nerve pain. Your sciatic nerve is a pencil-thick nerve that travels from your lumbar spine, branching into your buttocks and hips and down into each of your legs. This nerve provides sensory information and muscle movement in your leg.
Pinching or irritation of the sciatic nerve causes sciatica. Your sciatica symptoms may include mild to severe pain, numbness, tingling, or even electric shock-like sensations. The discomfort typically only affects one side of your body at a time and may travel from your lower back into your leg.
Herniated discs are the most common cause of sciatica. You may also develop the pain condition if you have degenerative disc disease or other issue, such as spinal stenosis.
Exercise: the powerful pain reliever
Your body uses pain as a signal to let you know something is wrong. Instinctually, you may do everything in your power to minimize movement to prevent the painful sensations. And while rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication may be recommended initially for your sciatica, inactivity can worsen your condition.
As your initial pain sensations improve, you need to get moving. Prolonged sitting increases pressure on your lumbar spine and may exacerbate the pinching and irritation of your sciatic nerve. Walking short distances may alleviate the pressure and your pain.
To prevent a recurrence of your sciatica, we recommend physical therapy. A physical therapist designs a personalized exercise program to improve your posture and strengthen supporting muscles, which may prevent further irritation of the nerve and a recurrence of your sciatica.
Interventional pain management for sciatica
If over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication fails to alleviate your sciatica, we may recommend an epidural injection, which contains an anesthetic and corticosteroid. The injection provides immediate pain relief and reduces inflammation, but the effects are temporary.
However, it’s important to note that an epidural injection may provide enough relief from your sciatica to allow you to participate in physical therapy so you can strengthen the muscles that lead to long-term results.
Surgical intervention to relieve nerve compression
Surgery is rarely needed to provide pain relief for sciatica. If the nerve compression is severe and affecting bowel or bladder control, however, we may recommend surgical intervention.
The type of surgery performed depends on the underlying cause of your sciatica. Our orthopedic experts specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and use techniques that minimize trauma to your body and shorten your recovery time.
About 40% of US adults develop sciatica at some point in their life. But with the right treatment plan, you can get relief from your pain quickly.
For expert management of your sciatica, contact us by calling the office nearest you or booking an appointment online.