Most of us have sustained back pain of some sort, whether it’s mild discomfort or severe pain that knocks you off your feet. However, the back pain can spread to the legs and become debilitating in the case of sciatica.
Sciatic pain is a prevalent complaint in the U.S., affecting up to 40% of the population at some point during their lifetime. Sciatica is the consequence of an underlying condition, such as a slipped disc in the lower spine – and people may experience sharp and intense pain in the low-back and usually down into a leg, while others might have numbness and weakness in one or both of their legs.
Its treatment includes traditional medicine as well as alternative therapies. Most people suffering from sciatica get relief without any surgical treatments. However, surgery is beneficial for those who have chronic pressure on the sciatic nerve, and other treatment options have failed to work.
Let’s talk about what sciatica is, how it can be treated, and where you can go in Connecticut and Massachusetts for world-class orthopedic care and successful treatment for your sciatic pain.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatic pain is usually induced by an irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve in the spine by a herniated disc or by a bone spur on a vertebra. It usually originates from the lower spine and radiates to the buttock and down the back of your leg, and sometimes to the feet.
Its symptoms are often characterized by burning pain, weakness, or numbness in your calf or foot. Sometimes, the pain or weakness becomes so terrible that you cannot move your foot, bend your knee, or even walk. It worsens when you sneeze, cough, bend, or have a bowel movement.
In some rare cases, the nerve can be pinched by a spinal tumor or damaged by disease, such as diabetes. You may also lose control of your bowel and bladder – and if you have any such symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Treatments for Sciatic Pain
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Depending on the cause, sciatica might fade over time with the following simple self-care treatment measures:
- Cold packs/hot packs – You might get relief from sciatica by placing a cold pack or hot pack on the painful area for about 20 minutes several times a day. Be sure not to put the pack directly on your skin, but first cover it with a towel to avoid burning or frostbite. Avoid using heat treatment if you have swelling, and avoid using cold treatment if you have stiffness.
- Stretching – Stretching exercises for your lower back might relieve the nerve root compression and help you to feel better.
- Over-the-counter medications – Some pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help to relieve your sciatic pain. If the pain doesn’t respond to pain medication or gets worse, see an orthopedic doctor.
Nonsurgical Medical Treatment for Sciatica
It is advisable to treat sciatica as early as possible to avoid symptoms’ progression. If the above self-care measures do not work, the following medications can be used to relieve sciatic pain:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Prescription steroid treatment
- Physical therapy
- Physician-administered spinal injections
- Alternative therapies (e.g., massage, yoga, or acupuncture)
Surgery for Sciatic Nerve Pain Relief
Surgical options to relieve sciatica pain include:
- Microdiscectomy: Microdiscectomy is a common surgical approach to treat herniated disc-induced sciatica, as it involves removing the portion of the disc that is pressing against the sciatic nerve and causing pain (pinched nerve). Approximately 86% of patients report sciatic pain relief after this minimally invasive surgery, and it is usually an outpatient procedure.
- Laminectomy: This is mostly performed for spinal stenosis-induced sciatic pain, which means that the spine is pressing inward against the sciatic nerve – so removing the lamina portion of one or more vertebrae can provide relief. Up to 90% of patients report pain relief after this surgery.
Research suggests that sciatica surgery tends to better relieve the pain and improve the functional outcome over the course of the year following treatment, as compared to nonsurgical treatments.
Nonetheless, the decision on surgery is under the discretion of the patient. Considerations include medical emergencies (such as cauda equina syndrome), the severity of pain, the extent of dysfunction, and pain duration.
Sciatic Pain Treatment in Connecticut and Massachusetts
Sciatic pain can limit your activities and affect your quality of life. If you’re struggling with sciatic pain, our medical team at Advanced Orthopedics New England is dedicated to helping you and guiding you through the treatments, from conservative methods to surgical procedures.
To learn more about our comprehensive treatment, schedule an appointment by contacting us today at (860) 728-6740 or by filling out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to hearing from you!