What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is pain felt in one or both of the legs as a result of pressure on or injury to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve stretches from our lower spine and travels down our legs. It is a central nerve that controls muscles in our lower legs as well as muscles located behind the knees. This nerve also provides sensation behind our thighs, parts of our lower legs, and also the soles of our feet. The sciatic nerve can become pinched or injured due to a slipped disc, muscle problems in the buttocks, or a pelvic injury.
Depending upon where and how severely the sciatica nerve is injured, the symptoms of sciatica can vary greatly. Symptoms usually include pain, numbness, a tingling sensation, or a burning sensation in one or both legs. When the condition is at its worst, the pain of sciatica may make it extremely difficult to move the legs at all. Pain usually occurs only on one side and is usually worse at night, when walking or bending backwards, or after standing or sitting for long periods of time.
You can help achieve sciatica pain relief with heat or ice on the painful area. Light exercises and pain medication may also help reduce the symptoms temporarily. If your sciatica pain persists, surgery may be recommended.
The first step to treating sciatica is rest, heat, and ice. If these at-home remedies don't improve symptoms, a number of medications can be prescribed to provide sciatica pain relief. These can include anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications. Physical therapy is also often helpful in relieving the pain of sciatica. Exercises for sciatica are aimed at improving posture, strengthening the muscles in the legs and back, and improving flexibility. If pain is severe enough, a spine specialist might recommend steroid injections as part of sciatica treatment. Such injections can reduce inflammation as well as physical discomfort.
If conservative sciatica treatments fail to help manage the pain, a spine surgeon may recommend sciatica surgery. Surgical operation is not usually recommended as a treatment for sciatica, but in some rare cases in which the compressed nerve causes significant weakness or trouble controlling the bowels or bladder, it may be the best option. In this case, the spine surgeon will perform a procedure that takes the pressure off of the sciatic nerve, which may be caused by a bone spur or a herniated disc.
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