When lower back pain radiates down your hip and buttock into your leg, you are experiencing sciatica. Generally, this chronic condition only affects one side of the body and the leg on the affected side. The pain follows the sciatic nerve, which is a large nerve in the lower back that branches off into each leg and travels down to the toes. The sciatic nerve is the longest in the body.
Pressure on this nerve causes pain to be felt anywhere from the beginning to the end of the nerve. In most cases, the problem will resolve on its own within a few weeks. Surgery may be an option for severe situations where a patient experiences significant leg weakness or changes in the bowel or bladder.
The nerve can become irritated when a herniated disk, bone spur or narrowing of the spine puts pressure on the nerve — inflammation and pain result. Occasionally, the patient may experience numbness in the leg affected by the nerve.
Sciatica Treatment Options
Treatment for sciatica may include anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen. Muscle relaxants may also be recommended. Steroid injections may be used in the area around the root of the nerve. Corticosteroids help reduce the swelling around the irritated nerve.
If the pain has subsided, physical therapy may be advised to help you prevent future injuries. Exercises include those to correct poor posture, strengthen core muscles and increase flexibility.
Your doctor will give you an exam and check your muscle strength, watching for signs of pain when you do certain movements. Imaging tests may also be used to find out what is irritating the nerve when the pain is severe or does not improve. An X-ray of the spine may be taken to check for a bone spur. MRI and CT scans provide information about soft tissues and the spinal nerves. Electrical impulses may be checked with electromyography to confirm that the nerve is compressed by a herniated disk or by spinal stenosis.
Self-care measures usually alleviate the pain caused by sciatica. Resting will help, but too much inactivity can make the situation worse. Stretching exercises often relieve pressure on the nerve.
Dr. Michael will be happy to advise you on self-care remedies you can try to help relieve symptoms of sciatica. If your pain continues or worsens, testing may be necessary to determine the next steps in treating your condition. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.