lt’s that familiar back ache that radiates down your leg, or the pins-and-needles feeling that’s been dogging you—those are a few classic symptoms of sciatic nerve pain.
“Sciatica is a common type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg,” said WebMD. “Often, the pain extends from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected, the pain may also extend to the foot or toes.”
While sciatic nerve pain may have different signs for different people, it can be potentially debilitating for some. Thankfully, you can get rid of it once and for all with help from a leading spine doctor.
Sciatic Nerve Pain: How to know if you have sciatica
The only way to know for certain that the back pain you are feeling is sciatica is to see a back doctor. Common symptoms of sciatica include:
- Leg or rear end pain, especially concentrated on one side, that feels worse when you sit down
- Pain in the hip
- “A bad leg cramp, with pain that is sharp (‘knife-like’), or electrical,” said the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). “The cramp can last for weeks before it goes away. You may have pain, especially when you move, sneeze, or cough. You may also have weakness, ‘pins and needles’ numbness, or a burning or tingling sensation down your leg.”
- “Progressive lower extremity weakness, numbness in the upper thighs, and/or loss of bladder or bowel control,” said WebMD, which can be dangerous and require immediate attention.
What you can do about it
Have a board certified spine doctor to evaluate your condition and then recommend a number of different treatment options for sciatic nerve pain. Thankfully, “The condition usually heals itself, given sufficient time and rest,” said the AAOS. “Approximately 80% to 90% of patients with sciatica get better over time without surgery, typically within several weeks.”
Minimally invasive treatments include:
- Temperature control and anti-inflammatories
Get out that ice pack and heating pad, because your doctor will probably tell you to alternate heat and cold as a first course of action. Most likely, you will also be advised to take over-the-counter medications like Advil or Aleve. These anti-inflammatories can provide some relief and may be all you need to get rid of your pain altogether.
With many back injuries, it’s important to limit your activity level so you don’t worsen your condition. But, there are some stretches that help if you’re suffering with sciatic nerve pain by helping to take the pressure off the nerve. And, some of them can even be done in bed.
These stretches “target one of the three main causes of sciatica: herniated disc (a bulge in the cushioning between the bones in your spinal column), bone degeneration (irregularities in your vertebrae), or tight hip muscles,” said Prevention. “If you’re unsure what’s triggering your sciatica, try all three routines and note which one helps the most. For the best results, do your stretches daily before you get out of bed in the morning, or at night before you fall asleep.” Prevention’s recommended stretches include a basic press up, a knees-to-chest stretch, a pelvic tilt, and stretches geared toward loosening muscles in the hips that may be pressing on the sciatic nerve.
Walking is another low-impact activity doctors may recommend to help control your sciatic pain because it can help with inflammation. However, walking too fast or not paying attention to your form can have the opposite effect. Ensure you don’t further injure your back by:
-Shortening your stride—Long strides can compress your lumbar discs and worsen nerve pain.
-Using your core—Concentrate on the abdominal muscles, which can take the pressure off your spine.
-Slowing down—If you’re moving too fast, you may not be as inclined to pay attention to your form.
- Swimming and water aerobics
The low-impact nature of water exercise makes it a good call for those who are suffering with sciatica. “There’s not as much pressure on the back when you’re in the water,” said Prevention.
- Epidural steroid injections
For many people suffering with pain from sciatica, epidural steroid injections provide total relief. Done as an easy, outpatient treatment that takes just minutes, the injections are performed under x-ray, with a small amount of steroid and local anesthetic injected “into the spinal canal and around the specific nerves that are inflamed,” said Dr. Mark Valente, Board certified/fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon and Founder and Medical Director of DISC Spine Institute. One may do the trick, while some patients get permanent relief after three or four injections in a year.
For those whose sciatic nerve pain does not improve with other treatments, surgery may be the answer. Advancements in minimally invasive surgical procedures means that surgery for sciatic nerve pain, and recovery, are easier than ever.
If you’re ready to put an end to your sciatica nerve pain or if you want more information about treatment options, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain. Today’s minimally invasive procedures include outpatient treatments and easier surgical treatments with small incisions and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.