The term sciatica refers to pain along a specific nerve the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back down through each leg. It usually caused by a wayward vertebral disc, more commonly referred to as a pinched nerve or a herniated, ruptured, or slipped disc that has shifted from its normal position in the vertebral column and is putting pressure on the radicular nerve (nerve root), which connects to the sciatic nerve.
The intensity and duration of the pain varies with each person, and ranges from an infrequent and slightly irritating sensation to a constant, debilitating pain. It normally affects the lower back and one leg only, but pain may also extend to the feet and toes. Typical flare-ups last two weeks to a few months. During these episodes, sufferers have several options for sciatica pain relief.
At-home remedies such as heat and ice packs often work wonders to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. They should be used in twenty minute intervals every couple of hours for optimum effect. Over-the-counter or prescription medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also bring sciatica pain relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be particularly helpful in reducing inflammation, but can have painful side effects.
If pain is severe, a patient may receive an epidural steroid injection. Steroids are injected directly into the painful area around the nerve and greatly reduce inflammation and pain. These injections are temporary and provide sciatic pain relief anywhere from one week to a year.
Physical therapy and chiropractic care ease the painful symptoms of sciatica and work as correctives to prevent future recurrences of the condition by helping to strengthen and tone the lower back.
If pain persists for two to three months and the aforementioned treatments have not worked, surgery may be the most effective solution. Sufferers and their doctors must choose between two surgical procedures performed to relieved the pain of sciatica. These surgeries are elective and effective, relieving 75% to 95% of patients pain.