Medical professionals are no stranger to hearing about back problems. From slipped discs to torn muscles, there’s no shortage of potential back problems you can have. But one of the most common back (specifically lower back) problems you can have is sciatica. Each year, nearly 3 million people in the U.S. are affected by sciatica. But despite its popularity, few people truly know what it is or how they can ease their pain.
What is Sciatica?
Your sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs down your lower back and to each of your legs. Sciatica occurs when something (most often an injury or old age) puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing it to send a shooting pain down a patient’s back, buttocks, hips, and legs.
How Does it Happen?
The most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disc — a torn disc in your back that bulges into your spine and sciatic nerve. For many people, the pain is temporary and only lasts a few weeks, but for others, the pain can become chronic. But even in more severe cases, less than 10% of people with sciatica will ever need surgery.
How can I Treat it?
There are many ways to treat sciatica, however the most popular options are usually:
Acupuncture: Though acupuncture originated in China, it has become an incredibly popular pain management treatment here in America. During a session, an acupuncturist will stick thin needles into specific “points” of your body. Each point is said to relate to certain health problems.
Messages: Tight and tense muscles located in your hip and buttock can further irritate your sciatic nerve. Trigger point therapy has been shown to provide relief for many people suffering from sciatica, as well as muscle tenderness and nerve damage.
Ice and Heat: Because the sciatic nerve is buried deep within your leg, heat and ice won’t be able to fully reach it, however, they will act as a counterirritant — something used to produce skin irritation and counteract the underlying pain.
Physical therapy: When you have a shooting pain going down your leg, the last thing most people want to do is move, let alone exercise. But physical activity is exactly what you should do. Physical therapy can help increase blood flow to the damaged disc and nerve, which helps to reduce inflammation and pain levels.
If you suffer from back pain, schedule an appointment with one of the qualified physicians at Orthopaedic Specialty Group. As southern Connecticut’s largest and most experienced orthopedic practice, our team of spine specialists offer a variety of comprehensive, individualized treatment plans. If you live in Fairfield County, call us to schedule an appointment at (203) 337-2600.