Sciatica is the term used to refer to the nerve pain that is cause by inflammation or pinch in the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is actually the biggest nerve in the human body as it starts from the lower back and ends in the legs. The sciatic nerve is also known as the ischiatic or ischiadic nerve. Any inflammation in this nerve will result mainly in lower back pain. Treating sciatica will depend on the cause of the sciatic nerve pain.
Sciatica is not a problem on its own but rather a symptom of an underlying problem. This particular nerve problem can be causes by a herniated disc in the spinal cord, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, arthritis and other disc degeneration diseases. Sciatica has also been reported to affect women during pregnancy.
Treating sciatica will first start with a diagnosis of the cause. The physician will typically ask the patient questions regarding their symptoms and carry out a physical examination. He will also take in to consideration the patient’s medical history and may order an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to be performed in order to confirm his diagnosis.
The most common approach doctors take when treating sciatica is to first determine the underlying cause. If the sciatica pain is caused by inflammation of the nerve root, NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) may be prescribed. Over the counter pain medications can also be effective in reducing pain and inflammation.
Another option that may be explored in treating sciatica is physical exercise and stretching. Exercises that are useful in treating sciatica will be strengthening exercises which specifically target the back muscles and the core (abdominal muscles). The aim of strengthening these muscles is so that they are able to provide adequate support for the spine and thereby keeping it well aligned. If the spinal column is properly aligned, there is less chance of injury or spinal nerve compression. Stretching exercises for sciatica will always include hamstring stretches. The hamstring is the muscle found at the back of the thigh which is notorious for being tight. The tightness of this particular muscle may contribute to sciatic pain.
There are also some alternative methods that may be employed in treating sciatica. The alternative treatment methods include acupuncture, massage therapy, physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation.
Surgery may also be considered an option for treating sciatica. This is particularly for cases where the patient is in severe pain and all other treatment methods have failed. Surgery is considered a very possible option when the sciatica causes weakness in the legs.
The success of any of the treatment methods is dependent on factors such as the underlying cause of the nerve pain, severity of the pain and the physical condition of the patient.