What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a medical condition characterized by pain along the path of the sciatic nerve. Usually, sciatica affects only one side of the body, with the pain localized at any part of the nerve including:
Sciatica usually occurs due to:
This causes inflammation and pain often accompanied also with numbness of the affected leg, due to the fact that the sciatic nerve becomes pinched. In very rare cases this nerve can get compressed by a tumor of the nearby areas or it can get damaged due to diabetes.
People who are obese, have diabetes, sit for a long period of time during a day, or have a job that requires a lot of heavy lifting or drive for long periods have a greater risk of suffering from sciatic nerve problems than others.
Sciatica Signs and Symptoms
A characteristic sign of this condition is pain which is first localized on the lower back (the lumbar part of the spine). The intensity of the pain varies from mild, moderate to severe and this pain irradiates to the buttocks and down the back of the leg to the toes. Sitting for a long period of time can make the pain get worse.
Some people also refer to have numbness, tingling or even muscle weakness of the affected leg.
How is Sciatica diagnosed?
Your sciatica doctor will likely first check your reflexes and muscles of the affected leg. Usually, he/she will require you to walk, or lift your legs one at a time, actions which will make the pain get worse. Some of the commonly necessary tests for diagnosing sciatica include:
- X-Ray of the spine
- CT – Scan
- EMG (Electromyography)
What Kind of Doctor Treats Sciatica Pain?
Since around 40% of people will experience sciatica pain at some point in their lives, it’s helpful to know who you can turn to for help if this condition ever affects you. For most sciatica cases, physical therapists and chiropractors can help and treat people with sciatica pain and symptoms. However, for severe cases, you may be referred to a neurologist, a physician who specializes in the nervous system.
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Usually mild to moderate cases resolve on their own over time and do not require sciatica treatment. However, if this pain does not go away after a week with over the counter pain killers, if this pain gets worse or becomes progressively worse you should seek medical help.
Urgent medical care is necessary in cases when you have sudden and severe pain of the lower back or one side of the leg due to a trauma or work injury, especially in cases of car accidents, you have trouble controlling the bladder and if this sudden pain is also accompanied with numbness and muscle weakness.
Even though most of the people affected with sciatic problems fully recover with or without necessary sciatica treatment, in some cases it can lead to permanent nerve damage. This is more likely to occur in cases of trauma or injury of the lower back, when pain is accompanied by numbness of the affected area and when there is also a loss of bladder control.
If the pain does not resolve on its own, or if the pain is severe and getting worse, your sciatic pain physician will probably prescribe these medications:
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Anti-seizure medications
What Is the Most Effective Pain Relief for Sciatica?
Physical therapy treatment plays a great role in providing sciatica pain relief. Once the acute pain gets away, your doctor can design a physical rehabilitation program in order to help you strengthen your muscles, improve the posture, improve the flexibility and prevent any further damages to your spine.
Steroid injections such as Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections, Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections, Caudal Epidural Steroid Injections into the area around the nerve root are also often recommended. These injections help reduce the pain by suppressing the inflammation of the nerve.
Surgery is the last treatment option in cases of sciatica when nerve compression causes severe muscle weakness, loss of bladder control and chronic pain. Surgery consists of removing the bone spur or the portion of the spinal disk that has herniated and compresses the nerve when other sciatica treatment options have not done their effect. See Minimal Invasive Spine Surgery
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