Overview of Sciatica Treatment
Sciatica is a nerve pain which occurs from the irritation of the sciatic nerve. It is the largest nerve in the body. It causes pain, numbness, burning sensation or tingling radiation which is usually felt from the low back then to behind the thigh and then it radiates down below the knee. Sometimes it also radiates around the hip and feels like hip pain. The pain of sciatica is sometimes referred as sciatic nerve pain.
The main cause of sciatica is lumbar herniated disc. Some other causes include Overweight/obese, prolonged sitting, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, muscle strain, diabetes, spinal tumor, older age, scar tissue, pregnancy, etc. Few remedies such as regular exercise, maintaining healthy weight, hot/cold packs, etc are very helpful in the treatment of sciatica. If these remedies don’t work for you than some other treatment such as medications, surgery, steroid injections and few others are also available. But remember any treatment should only be done after the recommendation of a qualified doctor.
Symptoms of sciatica are unique depending on certain causes. Usually, you will see the effect of sciatica on one side of the lower body and pain radiates from lower back to the back of the thigh and then down the leg. Few other symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling in the limbs
- Pins and needles feeling, mostly in the foot or toes
- An electric shock type sensation
- Constant pain in one side of the buttock or leg, but the pain is very rare on both sides.
- Severe or shooting pain in one leg which makes it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain and other symptoms in the toes, which depends on where the sciatic nerve is affected
- Lower back pain but is not as severe as leg pain
- Pain when sleeping
- Trouble moving or exercising
- Feeling stiff and unable to flex the feet
- Pain that feels better when patients lie down or are walking, but worsens when standing or sitting
- Pain that is typically described as sharp, rather than dull
- Being Overweight/obese
- Prolonged sitting
- Muscle strain
- Spinal tumor
- Older age
- Scar tissue
- Pregnancy (very rare)
- Lumbar herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease (mostly in old age)
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (common after 60 years of age)
- Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
- Piriformis syndrome
It is not always possible to prevent sciatica, but few prevention tips that are very effective and helpful, include –
- Maintain proper posture while sitting
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain healthy weight (if overweight/obese)
- Stay hydrated
- Using hot/cold pack
- Use good body mechanics
- Monitor blood sugar levels regularly
- Get good sleep
- Avoid smoking
- Reduce mental stress
- Eat nutrient-dense healing diet
- Avoid exposure to vibration from heavy vehicles
Massage therapy provides a number of benefits for back pain such as it relaxes muscles (it prevents irritation), increases blood circulation and release the endorphin (it is a natural pain reliever of the body). Endorphin can provide temporary relief from few symptoms of sciatica. So many types of massage therapies are available which helps to relieve sciatic nerve pain. Consult your doctor, as he will be able to recommend you massage therapy depending on your symptoms and causes.
Turmeric has one of the best natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain. It helps to reduce nerve pain and inflammation. It lowers certain level of enzymes that cause inflammation.
- Mix 1 tsp of turmeric and a pinch of cinnamon in a glass of milk. Boil it and add 1 tsp of honey in it. Drink it once or twice daily for better results.
- Another option is turmeric supplements, but should only be taken after consultation with a doctor.
Hot/Cold compress helps immediately to relieve sciatica pain, reduce swelling and inflammation. The hot/Cold pack should be placed in the affected area for about 10-20 minutes, twice or thrice daily. It will help to reduce the pain. This is a very effective remedy and can be used few times a day or occasionally. Another way is to take warm baths as heat loses tight muscles and helps to increase the blood flow.
In most of the cases, sciatica and its symptoms go away on its own in few days. There is a broad range of treatments available for sciatica.
Initial treatment for sciatica focuses only on certain medications and exercises. Some home treatment to relieve pain includes – exercise regularly, stay hydrated, maintain a healthy weight, monitor your blood sugar level regularly, avoid prolonged sitting, alternatively lie down with short walks, using the hot/cold pack, massage therapy, etc.
Few other treatments include:
Medications: Prescription medications such as anti-inflammatory medicines (ibuprofen, naproxen), tricyclic antidepressants, muscle relaxants, narcotics and anti-seizure medications are often used in reducing and relieving sciatica pain. But before taking any medication consult your doctor and follow the instructions written on the label.
Steroid injections: Steroid injections are recommended for few cases of sciatica. Injections of corticosteroid medicine are given as it reduces the pain by suppressing inflammation around the irritated nerve. Its effects are temporary (from a week to a year) and don’t always work for everyone. This injection should be given to the patient in limited number as it has few side effects if given frequently.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy is a rehabilitation program designed by a physical therapist to prevent any future injuries. It is done after the patient improves from acute sciatica pain. Physical therapy depends on the medical condition of the patient such as level of pain and its causes. Usually, physical therapy focuses on 3 key areas – stretching, strengthening and aerobics. These exercises can be done in combination or separately as advised by a physical therapist.
Surgery: Usually surgery is considered depending on certain situations such as –
- Severity of the pain
- If pain persisted longer
- Pain is not relieved by other treatments such as medications, exercise, injections, physical therapy and others.
- Patients inability to participate in physical activities
- Other severe conditions
Before surgery patient’s overall health is also considered and in most of the cases, it is patient’s decision whether he wants to opt for surgery or not.
According to reports, more than 50 million people worldwide complain about sciatic nerve pain. However, the pain and symptoms can be reduced by opting for a healthier lifestyle and doing some stretching exercises. In some cases, where the exercises and home remedies fail to provide relief from the symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.
Can Reiki help in relieving Sciatica?
Reiki is a form of massage therapy. Though it is not capable of reducing the irritation of the sciatic nerve, it can certainly provide relief from pain caused by sciatica.