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Sciatica describes the symptom of leg pain – sometimes coupled with tingling, numbness, or weakness – that originates in the lower back and travels through the buttock and down the sciatic nerve in the back of each leg. Often, self-care measures are prescribed to try to combat this pain. But, if these self-care measures are not helping with improvement of the condition, additional treatments may be recommended.
Treatments suggested by your doctor may include medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, narcotics, tricyclic antidepressants, or anti-seizure medications. Depending on the pain and symptoms you are experiencing, and any contraindications, the doctor may choose one or a combination of these drugs.
Coupled with medications, your doctor may likely prescribe physical therapy as well to help with rehabbing and to avoid future injuries. Physical therapy usually includes exercises for correct posture, stretches, strengthening of the muscles, and improvement in flexibility.
In some cases, a doctor may also recommend injection of a corticosteroid medication into the area around the involved nerve root. Corticosteroids can help to reduce pain by supressing inflammation around the irritated nerve. These steroid injections often wear often after a few months, and the number of injections one can receive is limited as there is risk of serious side effects with frequent steroid injections.
As a last option, a doctor may recommend surgery. This option is usually used only when the compressed nerve causes significant weakness including loss of bowel or bladder control, or when the pain worsens and will not improve with previously mentioned therapies. A surgeon can remove the bone spur or disc that is pressing on the nerve and causing the issue.
In many cases, sciatica can be treated with physical therapy and pain management through medication. In the event that these don’t work, your doctor may prescribe more serious treatments such as steroid injections or surgery. In cases where the nerve pain causes weakness or extreme pain, it may be necessary to have the problem fixed surgically.
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