Sciatic nerve pain affects a large portion of the population, with as many as 40% of people dealing with sciatic nerve pain at some point in their lives. This condition can be incredibly debilitating, causing back pain and making it difficult to participate in even the simplest activities. It’s no wonder that people living with it may frantically search for a sciatic nerve pain treatment that will finally provide them with relief.
Still, you’re likely wondering what the best sciatic nerve pain treatment is. In this article, we’ll discuss what sciatic nerve pain is, its symptoms, its causes, and, of course, treatments. We’ll list the facts of the treatment so you can compare and contrast and determine which one sounds like the best fit for you. Is it possible that there’s an effective treatment outside of what’s commonly recommended? Keep reading to find out!
What is Sciatic Nerve Pain?
Sciatic nerve pain is pain caused by an injury to or irritation of the sciatic nerve, the longest and thickest nerve in your body. This nerve originates in the buttocks, runs through your hips, buttocks, and down a leg on each side of your body, stopping just below your knee. It’s also made up of five different nerve roots. Two of these nerve roots come from the lumbar spine (lower back), while three are from the sacrum, the bottom section of the spine. Although the sciatic nerve stops just below the knee, it branches into other nerves, going down through your leg and into your feet and toes.
“Sciatica” is the most common name used to describe sciatic nerve pain, which typically begins in the lower back and radiates down the leg. It’s generally considered to be caused by irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression of a nerve in the lumbar spine region. This condition is characterized by moderate to severe pain felt from the lower back, through the hips, buttocks, and down the legs, which is the path of the sciatic nerve. It may also cause muscle weakness in the affected leg and foot, leg numbness, and a tingling sensation in the leg, foot, and toes.
How Does Sciatic Nerve Pain Feel?
People living with sciatic nerve pain typically describe the pain they feel in a few different ways, such as sharp, shooting pain, or jolts of pain. Some also describe sciatica pain as burning, electric, or stabbing. Your pain may be felt constantly or it may come and go.
An important difference between sciatic nerve pain and other types of lower back pain is that the pain felt in your legs will usually be more severe than the pain felt in your lower back. Your pain may also feel worse when sitting or standing for long periods of time when you stand up, and when you twist your upper body. Coughing, sneezing, or other sudden and forceful body movements may also worsen your pain.
What Are the Symptoms of Sciatic Nerve Pain?
We’ve already mentioned some of the common symptoms of sciatic nerve pain, but now we’ll be diving in deeper and discussing the details of these symptoms.
- Moderate to severe pain that radiates from the lower back to one side of the buttocks, and down the back of the leg. This is the most common symptom of sciatica. You may feel pain or discomfort anywhere along the sciatic nerve pathway, but it’s most common to follow this path.
- Pain felt in the lower back and leg may vary, going from mild aches and pains to a sharp, burning sensation and excruciating pain.
- Pain that can be described as a jolt or electric shock.
- Pain that worsens with movement such as twisting your body, coughing, or sneezing.
- Pain that feels worse when standing or sitting for a long period of time.
- A tingling feeling, described as feeling like “pins and needles” in the legs, feet, and even toes.
- It is possible for sciatica pain to be felt on both sides of the body, but it typically only affects one side.
- Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot. You may feel pain in one area of your leg and numbness in another.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control due to cauda equina syndrome. This is a medical emergency and if you experience this, you should see a doctor immediately.
What Causes Sciatic Nerve Pain?
There are many causes of sciatic nerve pain, some more well-known than others. It’s most commonly believed that a pinched or compressed nerve is the cause of sciatica pain, but this is most often not the case. The truth is, annular tears are the most common cause of irritation and inflammation of the sciatic nerve.
When annular tears develop in the outer portion of a spinal disc, known as the annulus fibrosus, the inner portion of the disc may leak out. This portion of the spinal disc is called the nucleus pulposus, and it can cause significant irritation and inflammation when it comes into contact with surrounding nerves and spinal nerve roots. If the torn disc is located in the lumbar spine, the nucleus pulposus may come into contact with the sciatic nerve, causing irritation that leads to the symptoms of sciatica pain.
However, annular tears have many potential causes that can lead to sciatic nerve pain. The following are some of these causes.
A new injury or previous injury. If your lower back, or lumbar spine, is injured, due to an accident, the spinal discs can become damaged. This damage can cause tearing of the annulus fibrosus and potential leaking of the nucleus pulposus, leading to sciatic nerve irritation.
Aging. It’s common for spinal discs to develop annular tears as a natural part of our aging process. In fact, just about every adult has annular tears in their spinal discs. However, if these tears become severe enough to lead to leaking, this aging process can cause sciatica pain.
Weight. Being overweight can cause the front of your body to become heavier, creating uneven weight distribution in your body. This forces your spine out of its natural alignment and puts increased pressure on your spine. This pressure can lead to the development of annular tears.
A weak core. In order to protect your spine, it’s important to have strong core muscles. Strong core muscles provide support and protection for your lower back and spine, preventing the development of annular tears, particularly in your lower back. Without a strong core, increased strain is placed on your lumbar spine, increasing your chances of developing leaking spinal discs in this area.
Your occupation. Having an active and physical job that requires heavy lifting increases your risk of developing annular tears, especially if you don’t use proper lifting techniques or take measures to protect your lower back. Jobs that require prolonged periods of sitting increase your risk as well due to the stress that sitting places on the lower back.
Weightlifting. Weightlifting places significant stress on your lower back if you don’t use the correct lifting technique. This can cause annular tears to develop and eventually lead to leaking that may cause sciatic nerve pain.
Smoking. Smoking affects your spine by increasing the speed at which your spinal discs wear down. It reduces the amount of oxygen that can reach the spinal discs and causes them to become brittle and dehydrated. Annular tears can easily develop when spinal discs become brittle and fragile.
Herniated disc. Herniated discs don’t actually cause sciatica pain most of the time. The true cause of sciatica pain that accompanies a herniated disc is leaking of the nucleus pulposus alongside the disc herniation. If the herniated disc’s location allows the nucleus pulposus to come into contact with the sciatic nerve root, you’ll experience sciatic symptoms.
Degenerative disc disease. This condition is characterized by spinal discs becoming worn down, usually as a result of annular tears. This may lead to leaking of the nucleus pulposus as well, potentially irritating the sciatic nerve.
So if we now know that physical or mechanical pinching isn’t the cause of sciatica pain, what is the most effective sciatic nerve pain treatment?
Common Sciatic Nerve Pain Treatment
Sciatic nerve pain treatment will typically begin with conservative treatments, such as medication. The medications used to treat this condition range from anti-inflammatories to muscle relaxants and narcotics. The first medications your doctor prescribes should be over-the-counter pain medications. Medications that are known to be helpful include acetaminophen and NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen, but they shouldn’t be used for an extended period of time without first consulting your physician. If these medications fail to provide you with relief, you might be prescribed stronger muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories. Your doctor may even prescribe antidepressants like amitriptyline or anti-seizure medications. Steroids injected directly into the sciatic nerve may provide some relief as well.
Performing specific stretches recommended by a physical therapist may provide pain relief as well. In fact, physical therapy is commonly used as a sciatic nerve pain treatment. Working with a physical therapist can provide you with a rehabilitation program that is designed for you. A physical therapist will usually help you improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles, and improve your flexibility. All of this is intended to provide relief as well as prevent future back issues.
Limited bed rest may be recommended by your doctor, but keep in mind that prolonged bed rest can do more harm than good to a back issue.
Hot and cold packs can be applied to your lower back to provide relief as well.
If conservative treatment does not provide you with relief and your sciatica pain is debilitating or getting in the way of you living your life, your doctor will most likely recommend surgery.
Discectomy is the most common surgery recommended for sciatic nerve pain treatment. In this procedure, the surgeon will remove the spinal disc that is believed to be compressing the sciatic nerve. While the goal of discectomy is only to remove a portion of the spinal disc, removing the entire disc is sometimes necessary.
Laminectomy is another surgery used for sciatic nerve pain treatment. The lamina is part of the ring of bone that covers your spinal cord. When a laminectomy is performed, the surgeon will remove the lamina and any other tissue believed to be pressing on the sciatic nerve.
What’s the problem with these sciatic nerve pain treatments? None are designed to address the most common underlying cause – annular tears. They may address inflammation caused by nucleus pulposus leaking, but they cannot stop it. This is why, while they may provide temporary relief, they will not be able to provide lasting relief from sciatica pain.
A Better Option for Sciatic Nerve Pain Treatment – The Discseel® Procedure
While the treatments mentioned above are the most common sciatic nerve pain treatment, there is another option that is designed to address annular tears and known to provide long-lasting pain relief: the Discseel Procedure.
The Discseel Procedure is a non-surgical, minimally invasive spine procedure that uses an orthobiologic method to address annular tears and relieve back and neck pain. This is the only procedure that has been designed to address annular tears and stop the leaking of the nucleus pulposus.
Whether your pain is caused by herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, or chronic lower back pain, the Discseel Procedure may be able to help you. Apply today and find out if you’re a candidate for this revolutionary procedure!
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