Effective treatments for sciatica
Sciatica results from damage to the lumbar nerve roots, typically causing back pain and sharp, shooting pain down one or both legs. Although sciatica is common, there are no good treatments for it.
Tricyclic antidepressants, such as nortriptyline, and opioids, such as morphine, have been effective in treating other kinds of pain from nerve damage. If sciatica is going to get better on its own, the pain along the sciatic nerve will usually resolve within a couple of days or weeks. Sciatica episodes usually heal on their own within six to twelve weeks. There are a number of non-surgical options available to help alleviate the sciatic pain and discomfort.
For acute sciatica pain, heat and/or ice packs are most readily available and can help alleviate the pain, especially in the acute phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes, and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some people find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated to help with sciatica pain relief. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may also be helpful in relieving sciatica.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or oral steroids can be helpful in reducing the inflammation and pain associated with sciatica. If the sciatica pain is severe, an epidural steroid injection can be performed to reduce the inflammation. An epidural injection is different from oral medications because it injects steroids directly to the painful area around the sciatic nerve to help decrease the inflammation that may be causing the pain.
While the effects tend to be temporary, an epidural steroid injection can be very effective in providing relief from an acute episode of sciatic pain. Importantly, it can provide sufficient relief to allow a patient to progress with a conditioning program. A visit to a physical therapist, osteopathic physician, chiropractor or physiatrist can be helpful both to alleviate the painful symptoms and to help prevent future recurrences of sciatica.
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