Sciatica means one thing for a patient: radiating, shooting pain in the lower back and upper leg. The pain usually starts in the lower back or buttocks and radiates down the back of one leg.
The level of pain can vary from a mild ache to an excruciating sharp pain. The sensations can resemble an electric shock or a jolt, and it is often aggravated by sitting for long periods of time. Standing up can bring temporary relief.
Causes of Sciatic Pain
Sciatica is most frequently caused by a herniated disc (disc prolapse) in the lower back. The disc itself, or its soft interior which may have leaked, is pressing against the large sciatic nerve. This nerve branches off the spine and runs down the buttocks and down the leg to the foot, so the pain can follow along this path.
In addition to a slipped or herniated disc, other causes of sciatica can include:
- Muscle spasms (due to nerve compression)
- Spinal stenosis
- Inflammation (from an infection close to the nerve)
Treatment for Sciatica
The treatment for sciatic pain depends upon its cause. Heavy lifting should be avoided while it heals, and maintaining a moderate exercise program as recommended by your doctor can help reduce the pain and inflammation.
Certain over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications) or doctor-provided cortisone injections can help keep the pain manageable. If you are experiencing muscle spasms, your doctor may prescribe a muscle-relaxer. Some people have reported success fighting sciatic pain from chiropractic treatments, massage therapy, or acupuncture.
Only the most severe cases of sciatica, lasting longer than a couple of months, may require surgical measures to repair. The orthopedic surgeon may remove all or part of the vertebral disc that is pressing against the nerve. However, a very small percentage of sciatica cases are referred for surgery; most cases go away on their own or become only minor pain.
Prevention of Lower Back Pain
For people who have experienced sciatic back pain, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. You can reduce the pressure on the nerve by maintaining good posture when sitting, standing, or walking.
It is also best to practice safe lifting methods, such as the following tips:
- Always bend at the knees from and to a squatting position.
- Keep your back straight while lifting.
- Never bend over to pick up a heavy object.
- Hold the object close to your body to reduce strain.
Always use a quality chair that offers proper lumbar (lower back) support. The act of sitting all day on a stool or on an uncomfortable chair can compress the discs and the structures of the spine, thereby increasing the potential for sciatic flare-ups.
If a chair does not provide adequate lumbar support, a cushioned lumbar roll can be added behind the lower back for proper seated posture and to alleviate pressure.
See an Orthopedist in Dallas
If sciatic pain is affecting your life, see an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal conditions. Contact us at Tarpon Orthopedics and get treatment from some of Dallas’ leading spine specialists.
Call us today at (972) 596-1059 or make an appointment online, and take the first step on your journey back to feeling better again!