Sciatica is a term used to describe pain originating from the lower back that travels to the buttock and legs via the sciatic nerve. Starting at the lower end of the spinal cord and continuing along the back of the thigh, it’s the largest nerve in the human body. Spine surgeons in Los Angeles note that pain can range from occasional discomfort aggravated by certain movements to excruciating, debilitating pain. Treatments typically include:
Some doctors are reluctant to prescribe any type of medication for patients displaying sciatica symptoms since pain often goes away on its own–a theory supported by studies suggesting that patients who go without treatment tend to fare better than those who are prescribed some type of medication. However, sciatica pain showing no signs of subsiding will likely need to be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen to reduce swelling around sensitive nerves. Additional medications for sciatica can include:
• Anti-inflammatory herbal medications (turmeric, harpagophytum/”Devil’s Claw”)
• Muscle relaxants (usually includes short-term medications like Soma and Valium)
• Epidural steroid injections
• Some anti-depressants (including Cymbalta, which is FDA-approved for back pain relief)
Physical therapy that includes strengthening exercises often helps prevent a recurrence of sciatic nerve pain. Gentle exercises, including low-impact aerobic exercises and water-based exercises, can also speed up the recovery process by firming up muscles and tendons supporting the spine. Physical therapy for sciatica can also include passive treatments like the application of heat or cold.
Finding an effective treatment for sciatica starts with determining the source of the pain–usually a pinched nerve or lumbar disc herniation. In addition to the treatments mentioned above, some patients experience meaningful relief with unconventional options like acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy. Surgery, like a lumbar laminectomy, for relief of sciatic nerve pain is only considered for severe, persistent pain not responding to any other treatments.
If you’ve been diagnosed with sciatica and are interested in learning more about treatment options, look to the trusted Beverly Hills spine surgeons at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. In addition to discussing non-surgical treatments, we can also provide information on minimally invasive spine surgeries should more conservative methods fail to provide relief. To request an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757 today.