Sciatica Treatment

Sciatica, which occurs due to irritation of the sciatic nerve, is very painful and can last several days, eventually incapacitating the patient. Often the sciatica pain symptoms are associated with alterations in the spine, such as herniated disc, spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the spine.

When the person has other symptoms such as a sensation of stitches, burning, and feeling of having tired and heavy legs, this has no relation with the sciatic nerve, but they are characteristic of myofascial pain syndrome, which is often confused with sciatic nerve disorders.

How to diagnose a sciatic pain?

The diagnosis of pain in sciatica can be made by the orthopaedic doctor or physiotherapist and is based on the signs and symptoms presented. The test seeks to check if there is any alteration of the sciatic nerve and can be performed in the office.

The test consists of lying on the patients back and lifting the stretched leg of the table, if there is a tingling sensation, the test indicates that there is compression of the nerve. If there is pain in the other leg, this indicates a serious alteration of the spine as a disc extrusion.

Imaging tests such as x-rays and magnetic resonance imaging can be useful to evaluate the spine helping to identify what the nerve is compressing. In case the spine is healthy, and without alterations, the cause of pain in sciatica should be only muscle or connective tissue, and the treatment is relatively more straightforward.

When it is suspected that the nerve is damaged, which rarely occurs, only in case of serious accidents in which it may be necessary to do an electroneuromyography, which is a test that evaluates the functioning of the nerve itself.

What causes pain in the sciatic nerve?

Sciatic nerve pain occurs when people undergo a compression, which is common when the person has a lumbar disc herniation, especially between L4 and L5, also because the spinal canal is squeezed, a vertebra is misaligned, or there is an increase in the tone and the firmness of the gluteus.

How to relieve sciatica pain

To relieve the pain it causes during an attack, the sciatica treatment will consist of:

  • Analgesics and anti-inflammatories that calm pain. They are usually taken every eight hours during the days of the episode. Then it is recommended to lower the frequency of doses but continue with the medication for up to two weeks.
  • Relative rest, that is, the patient will be able to move but should not make efforts or walk long distances. Bed rest is not recommended once pain is alleviated with analgesics.
  • Corticosteroids: should only be administered in situations where anti-inflammatories are not enough.
  • Massages in the lumbar area; they have the same effect as the application of heat. They must be done by trained people.

The sciatica pain relievers are usually recommended to do them in a period no longer than a couple of weeks, depending on how the medicaments work. In case the pain is too strong to handle the recommendation is to go back to the doctor and change the prescription.

To prevent sciatica, the best measures that can be taken are:

  • Avoid obesity and overweight.
  • Walk a minimum of five hours a week.
  • Practice sports that favour the development of the lumbar muscles, such as swimming, tennis or yoga.