Treating sciatic pain

Sciatica treatment

The sciatic nerve extends from the spinal cord to the hips and further down each leg. The Sciatic nerve is the single longest nerve present in the body. A debilitating condition of inflammation and pain in sciatic nerve is called “Sciatica”. The pain is often most excruciating and unbearable. Main symptoms of Sciatica include pain, a burning sensation, numbness and tingling that often radiates from the lower back i.e lumbar area and upper hip area to the back of the thigh, extending further down below the knees. Sometimes, sciatica pain is so intense that it makes walking and moving for the patient nearly impossible. Bed rest is advocated in such serious cases.

There can be several reasons for Sciatica pain. One of the most common reasons is a herniated disk or a pinched nerve. Other known causes of Sciatica are irritation of the nerve from adjacent bone, tumors, internal bleeding, infections, muscle injury. Sometimes, sciatic nerve gets irritated during pregnancy as well. Most Sciatica pain treatments often address the symptoms and focus on alleviating the pain. They do little to address the root cause. Following are some tried and tested remedies available for Sciatica pain:

1. Heat and Cold

Cold packs, like some ice wrapped inside a towel or gel based cold packs that you can store in your freezer, do alleviate the pain of sciatica. This technique works because cold reduces inflammation and soreness. An application for at least 20 minutes, multiple times in a day is known to relieve discomfort. If the weather is too cold, you can try heat packs instead. There are a variety of heat sources available in the market today, like a electric heating pad, microwaveable heat packs, heat lamp, hot skin patches and many more. Even a hot tub bath or a warm shower does the trick. Repeat applying heat every couple of hours. You should keep altering between heat and cold frequently.

2. Exercise

As opposed to the common belief that exercise would aggravate the pain, inactivity actually makes the sciatica condition worse. Regular exercising enables the body to produce endorphins. Besides being the “Feel good hormone”, endorphins are also natural painkillers and tranquilizers of the body. You should begin with some simple stretches and breathing exercises. Make sure to do the stretches gently and smoothly, without causing any jerks. Stretches that you perform should focus on strengthening lower back muscles and improving the posture. Hold every stretch that you do for at least 30 seconds. You can even try some Physiotherapy and if you have an access to the gym, your personal trainer can teach you some core exercises that would help relieving your symptoms. Slowly, you would be able to graduate to more advanced forms of exercises.

Concurrently, you may also try alternative therapies and forms of exercises like yoga, pranayam( breathing exercises), Tai-chi etc. These exercise not only relieve physical pain, but also lead to a “calmer” you. These exercises have holistic benefits and encompass physical, mental, emotional and spiritual domains. Thus, these exercises are highly recommended in any pain management pursuit.

3. Medication

Some non-prescription, over –the-counter pills are helpful in alleviating Sciatica pain. Acetaminophen containing Tylenol or ibuprofen, Advil and naproxin assist in managing sciatica symptoms. Tylenol is relatively less effective because it treats just the pain, while other over-the-counter medicines like advil, ibuprofen address inflammation as well. But sometimes, even this is not enough because sciatica pain is one of the excruciating pains. Stronger prescription medicines are often needed. They are usually muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. In more severe cases where sciatica pain persists for too long without any help from pills, steroid injections may also be prescribed. There long term effect is often a subject of contention, but they provide some instant relief.

4. Surgery

Surgery is often the last resort when everything else fails. Surgery is often required in cases where sciatica pain is a result of a herniated disk. The process is called “Diskectomy” where in an orthopedic surgeon would remove the part of the disk that is affecting the sciatic nerve. There is more advanced form of diskectomy wherein a small incision in the back is made using a microscope. This procedure is called “Microdiskectomy”. Both types of surgeries promise equal results, but recovery in microdiskectomy is slightly more quick.

It is advisable to turn to surgery, only after trying all other remedies available, including some of the alternative therapies that promise positive results. Ayurveda, Acupressure, Acupuncture, homeopathy are amongst the most promising alternative therapies.

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