Sciatica is a common ailment for many people. The sciatic nerve is the thickest and longest nerve in the body. When there is an irritation to that nerve, it can cause pain. You could experience mild to severe pain anywhere along the sciatica nerve, from the lower back to the legs. Look at how you can get some relief from this type of pain.
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How Common is Sciatica?
This type of nerve pain is prevalent in the United States. It is said that about 40% of people will experience some sciatic-related pain in their lifetime.
There are a few causes of sciatica, and they include:
Degenerative disk disease leads to the wearing down of the disk between the vertebrates. The nerve passageways will become narrower, causing spinal stenosis. When that happens, it can pinch the sciatic nerves as they leave the spine.
A slipped, or herniated disk will cause pressure on the nerve’s root. About 1% to 5% of all people will experience a slipped disk at one point in their lives. Pressure from the vertebrae will cause the center of the disc to bulge. When that occurs, it will put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Osteoarthritis is another problem that can affect sciatica. In these situations, bone spurs can form in an aging spine and cause compression in the lower nerves in the back.
Trauma and tumors that develop in the lumbar spine or near the sciatic nerve can cause pain in an individual.
All of these conditions can lead to sciatica. If you are already experiencing sciatic symptoms, you know that it can be a painful sensation. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Weakness or numbness in the lower back, feet, legs, or buttocks
- Loss of movement or pain that worsens with movement
- Moderate to severe pain in the buttocks, lower back, or down the back of the person’s leg
- Pins and needles sensation in the feet, toes, or legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Typically, sciatic will need to be diagnosed by a medical provider. Once your symptoms and medical history have been examined, you can start on a treatment plan.
Treating and Managing Sciatica
Any sciatica treatment aims to increase the patient’s mobility and decrease pain. Depending on the root cause, sciatica may go away with these self-care treatments.
The most common treatments include:
Using Hot or Ice Packs
Use a combination of hot and cold to treat sciatica. First, you need to use ice packs to reduce swelling and pain. Apply the ice packs wrapped in a towel to the affected area for about 20 minutes. After that, switch to a hot pack or heating pad for 20 minutes. You will need to do this several times per day. If the pain persists, you should look at other methods to get some relief.
Hemp-Based Creams and Rubs
Hemp-based creams are one way to relieve the pain in the legs, elbows, and arms. These extracts effectively reduce inflammation, which is the primary source of irritation of the sciatic nerve. Herbal Ice’s hemp Muscle Rub uses traditional herbs to alleviate arthritis, muscle pain, and swelling. These topical rubs will get to the source of the pain and work to stop any discomfort. Use this rub with other options, like exercise, to help relieve the painful condition of sciatica.
Taking Over-the-Counter Medicines
You can take OTC medicines to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain. There are many options on the market, including ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. However, watch out if you take aspirin. In some cases, it can cause bleeding and ulcers in a few people.
Perform Gentle Stretches
One way to alleviate some of the symptoms of sciatic nerve pain is by performing light stretches. It might seem counterproductive to exercise when it is painful, but too much rest can aggravate those leg and back symptoms. Think about incorporating gentle exercises into your daily routine. Focus on light aerobic exercises that can help strengthen your core. Along with building up your spine, these exercises can help release endorphins that can help reduce the feelings of pain.
When to See a Doctor
The intensity and cause of sciatica pain are different for everyone. For some patients, the simple at-home treatment is enough to provide relief. For others, they may need to focus on other treatment methods, such as:
Your doctor may have to prescribe muscle relaxants to help with any discomfort. Some medical providers may even prescribe anti-seizure or antidepressants depending on the severity of the pain and the root cause.
With physical therapy, a professional will work with you to find movements that decrease sciatica by reducing nerve pressure. Any exercise program should include stretches that help to improve flexibility. When you work with a physical therapist, you can customize your aerobic exercise program to help strengthen those muscles in the legs, abdomen, and back.
If the pain is terrible, the medical provider might need to inject corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory medicine, into the lower back. With that, it can help to reduce the swelling and pain around the affected nerve roots. These injections can provide some short-term relief, and they are given under local anesthesia as an outpatient service. These injections will create a burning or stinging sensation at the injection site.
The patient may want to use an alternative form of therapy. These therapists are becoming popular, and medical professionals can use them to manage all kinds of pain. You already know about the benefits of hemp-based products. Muscle rubs are ideal for getting into the affected area and providing a bit of all-natural relief for sciatica pain. Along with that, yoga and acupuncture are other forms of alternative treatment. Biofeedback is something else to consider since it can relieve stress and pain.
Is Surgery a Possibility?
Unfortunately, there are times when surgery might be the only way to alleviate the pain. Surgery is not recommended until you have exhausted all other treatment methods, such as medication and exercise. If your pain worsens, then it may be time to speak to a medical provider. Depending on the cause of the sciatica pain, surgery occurs within a year of ongoing symptoms. If the pain is relentless and severe, this medical treatment might be the only solution. The goal of spine surgery is to remove the pressure on the nerves and make the spine area more stable.
There is good news – most people will fully recover from sciatica pain. However, there are times when a person will have ongoing and long-lasting pain from sciatica. If the pinched nerve is injured, it can lead to chronic muscle weakness, causing problems like drop foot. With that, numbness in the foot can make it impossible to walk in a usual fashion.
Keep in mind that sciatica can cause permanent nerve damage, resulting in numbness in the legs. If you have lost feeling in your feet or legs, speaking to a medical provider is crucial.
Related: 4 Best CBD Products for Nerve Pain
Some conditions are not preventable, such as degenerative disk disease or accidental falls. However, there are a few ways that you can prevent sciatica, including:
Maintaining Good Posture
If you are standing, lifting objects, sitting, or sleeping, you need to have good posture. With that, you can reveal some of the pressure on your lower back. Pain is often a sign that your spine is not aligned correctly. If you feel stiff or sore, it might be time to adjust your posture.
Nicotine can reduce the blood supply to the bones and weaken the vertebral disk and spine. As a result, it puts more stress on the spinal area and nerves, causing back pain.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
A poor diet and extra weight can lead to inflammation and create pain in the body. The closer you are to your ideal weight, the less strain on your spine.
When you exercise regularly, it will strengthen your core and keep your joints flexible. Your core muscles in the abdomen and lower back support your spine. If sitting for long periods, get up and stretch to loosen those muscles. Choose light activities for yourself. You should consider low-impact activities such as yoga, swimming, walking, and tai chi.
When your sciatica nerves are inflamed, it can cause pain in your buttocks, legs, and back. With some prevention and a few valuable tips, you can find some relief for this painful condition.
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