My Doctor Says I Have Sciatica. Now What?
Sciatica is a condition caused by an inflamed or pinched nerve in your back. A diagnosis of sciatica is always accompanied by one or another medical condition – the one that caused the pressure on the nerve in the first place. If your doctor has recently informed you that you have sciatica brought up on other back conditions, such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, then it’s important that you treat them.
Once the other condition is treated, the sciatica should cease. However, it all depends on the extent of your injuries.
What Exactly is Sciatica?
Those with sciatica are thinking to themselves – “you know when you have it,” – because you certainly do. This condition is caused by pressure or inflammation in the back that pushes on the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs through your entire back, although the pain is generally felt down one leg or the other. The symptoms of sciatica can range from mildly annoying to very painful.
Generally, they include pain or weakness in one leg, numbness in that same leg, pain that radiates down the entire leg into the foot or ankle, and feelings of tingling, burning, or even searing pain. As you can see, due to the location of the sciatic nerve, this pain shoots down one of your legs, if not both of them. Plus, it’s accompanied by additional back pain since issues with the spine are what puts the pressure on the sciatic nerve in the first place.
Treatments for Sciatica
As we previously stated, in order to treat the sciatic nerve pain, the main issue with the back needs to be treated as well. There are a number of non-invasive options that have been known to work well. For example, physical therapy is often the first choice for many patients. This involves doing a number of exercises, as overseen by a physical therapist, that not only treats the cause of your back pain but also alleviates your sciatica and strengthens your back in order to prevent you from reinjuring it.
Additional treatments for sciatica include placing heating pads or ice on the back, often for up to 20 minutes at a time. This is done to help with any lingering inflammation that may be putting that pressure on the nerve. Sometimes the heat and ice are alternated in order to numb and then treat the area. Plus, over the counter pain medications are given out that can help as well. In some cases, a muscle relaxer or a nerve medication might help.
Finally, the last treatment for sciatica is one that’s slightly more invasive. It’s an epidural injection of steroids that are designed to lessen the pain and take care of any lingering inflammation. These injections are done as an outpatient procedure. The doctor administering them will do an x-ray first to ensure that they are reaching the right area of the back. Once the injection is completed, you’ll have to lie on your stomach for a short period of time before you are allowed to go home.