As the longest single nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve is a common source of radiating nerve pain. The true source of sciatica is often a herniated or slipped disc or conditions such as spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. However, it’s the resulting inflammation that often irritates the sciatic nerve. Exercise and epidural injections are among the pain management techniques usually recommended. Beverly Hills spine surgeons are here to help determine which option is best for you.
Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are placed directly into the dural space around nerve roots to provide instant and direct relief. The injections are a mix of a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid. These medications soothe irritated nerves and reduce inflammation. The numbing effects of the anesthetic may provide immediate relief, and the steroids usually become fully effective within a week after the injection is given.
Possible benefits include:
- Flushing out inflammatory proteins
- Allowing nerve roots to heal as inflammation eases
- Reducing pressure on the nearby SI joint from sciatic nerve irritation
- Enjoying relief that may last anywhere from weeks to months per injection
Exercise for Sciatica
Typically, ESIs are only recommended if sciatica symptoms are persistent and disruptive to your daily life. Exercise, on the other hand, is a standard recommendation for most patients. Exercises that strengthen core muscle groups may reduce your discomfort by providing added support for your spine. Routines can be tailored to the specific cause of your sciatica, and the exercises you do can be further customized to your abilities.
Possible benefits include:
- Allowing muscles to quickly recover from pain flare-ups
- Encouraging the release of endorphins that act as natural pain relievers
- Promoting better circulation in the affected area
What’s the Difference?
Epidural steroid injections are designed to target affected nerves by easing irritation and controlling inflammation in a way that’s more direct than how oral medications work. Exercises, which normally include low-impact aerobic activities, are meant to reduce the risk of experiencing more pain in the future by strengthening muscles that either directly or indirectly support the spine.
Trial and Error
Sciatica affects everyone differently, and you’ll likely be encouraged to try various treatment options to determine what combination of remedies is likely to provide relief. Keep a pain journal to document your experiences after trying different treatments. You and your doctor can use this information to determine whether or not epidural injections should be considered.
It doesn’t have to be one or the other with exercise and epidural steroid injections. If it’s too painful for you to make the movements required for various exercises, ESIs may provide enough relief for you to do so safely and without discomfort. Unless you are experiencing serious symptoms, you’ll likely benefit from specific exercises recommended by a physical therapist. If you do opt for an ESI, possible side effects are minimal and relief is almost immediate.
In severe cases of sciatic pain, you may want to opt for minimally invasive spine surgery. Beverly Hills patients can trust in The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons can diagnose the source of your pain and determine the most effective plan of action for finding relief. Give us a call today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.