Sciatica is generally known as pain on the lower extremities as a result of irritation of the delicate sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve originates from the nerve roots on the lumbar area of the spinal cord and passes through the inner portion of the buttocks up to the lower limb. When it is impinged or irritated, it can lead to various symptoms involving the buttocks up to the lower extremities.
What are the Symptoms of Sciatica?
Sciatica causes symptoms such as sharp pain on the lower limbs especially on the back of the thighs, calf and down the affected foot where the sciatic nerve passes through. Pain may develop into lumbar pain, hip pain, leg pain and buttock pain leading to significant discomfort. Sciatica is commonly associated with lumbago or lower back pain, but it may occur with or without low back pain. There can also be burning sensations along the area because of altered sensations. Most commonly, sciatica may result in numbness and tingling sensations starting from the lumbar or lower back down the lower limbs.
Sciatica symptoms may be relieved by rest and lying down and may be aggravated by walking and bending at the waist because of the stretching of the nerve roots on the lumbar spine. Pain relief by rest and lying down can only be temporary since activities may make the pain more severe. Severe cases of sciatica can actually reduce the range of motion and ability of the person to ambulate. Moreover, it can lead to more severe inability to walk or ambulate.
What are the Treatments for Sciatica?
Treatments for sciatica are vast ranging from home remedies to more advanced surgical approaches. By far, the most common management is bed rest. According to studies, bed rest for two weeks has led to the improvement of the symptoms in as much as 75% of patients. However, after two weeks, the symptoms of patients who took bed rest and not were practically the same. This means that bed rest can be effective immediately once the symptoms have appeared, but should not be done for prolonged periods as watchful waiting can also reduce the symptoms in time.
To hasten the recovery and the relief of symptom, various approaches may also be used such as:
• Use of medications
Pain killers, steroids and muscle relaxants are all used for the management of sciatica. Muscle relaxants help relax the muscles around the sciatic nerve to reduce nerve irritation. Meanwhile, NSAIDs and steroids help reduce inflammation and subsequently pain.
• Physical therapy
Physical therapy is one of the recommended managements for sciatica to help patients return to their optimum level of functioning especially in their ambulation.
Surgery is the last resort for the treatment of sciatica that persists, despite more conventional approaches. Surgery usually focuses on the correction of the underlying cause such as disc herniation or spinal stenosis.
Spinal manipulation or chiropractic care is also an effective approach for the treatment of sciatica. In fact, it is very effective for acute sciatica wherein no severe conditions such as cauda equina syndrome are present. Chiropractic manipulation is also seen as safe for the treatment of sciatica without neurologic deficits.
Sciatica is not a simple condition. Once symptoms are felt, consult a health care provider for appropriate treatment.