Sciatica originates in the lower back, causing burning shock-type pain that travels through the buttocks and down the leg(s). Numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness can accompany the pain, often making it challenging to accomplish your daily tasks.
John S. Michels, MD, is a pain management specialist with a busy practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth region of Texas. Well-known for his innovative, nonsurgical approach to pain relief, Dr. Michels develops individualized treatment for acute and chronic pain conditions like sciatica.
Read what Dr. Michels says about sciatica and his tips for relieving your symptoms and improving your overall quality of life.
Sciatica is the result of compression or pinching of spinal nerves as they exit the spinal canal. The nerve irritation occurs when a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or another condition narrows the space through which the nerve travels.
As the affected nerve is pinched, it becomes inflamed and painful. Because the symptoms can travel the entire length of the sciatic nerve, you may experience pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet.
Sciatica usually involves one side but can develop in both, and symptoms may last for weeks to months. Unfortunately, sciatica can also become chronic, causing long-term disability without treatment.
Effective treatment for sciatica includes identifying the condition compressing the nerve, then taking steps to reduce nerve inflammation and irritation.
Based on your symptoms and evaluation results, we develop comprehensive nonsurgical strategies to reduce your pain and prevent future episodes of sciatica.
Tips for turning your sciatica symptoms around
Thankfully, often we can successfully manage many cases of sciatica without resorting to surgery. Checkout our tips for combatting the pain and discomfort that sciatica causes:
Undergoing formal physical therapy
One of the best ways to turn around sciatica symptoms is to engage in formal physical therapy. We work with physical therapists to ensure your plan includes exercises designed to strengthen the muscles that support your back and improve your flexibility.
Massage therapy can also help relieve muscle tension and promote circulation, reducing discomfort associated with sciatica.
You may also benefit from cold and heat therapy. Applying a cold pack to the painful area can reduce inflammation and numb sore tissues, easing acute pain. Conversely, a heating pad can relax muscles and improve blood circulation, aiding healing.
Combining these conservative therapies can help reduce pressure on your nerves, relieving your pain and reducing the effects of nerve inflammation.
Exercise and lifestyle changes
Regular exercise can help reduce current sciatica symptoms and prevent future flare-ups. We recommend walking, swimming, yoga, and other low-impact activities for optimal benefit, since they decrease stress on your joints and spine.
In addition, maintaining a healthy weight and practicing good posture can also help relieve pressure on your sciatic nerve. Promoting healthy spinal habits, such as appropriate lifting techniques, can prevent the conditions that trigger sciatica.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can effectively relieve pain in mild cases of sciatica.
Epidural steroid injections
Dr. Michels often recommends epidural steroid injections (ESIs) as a standard treatment for sciatica. The injection contains a potent anti-inflammatory agent (corticosteroid) and a local anesthetic. The injection delivers medication directly to the space surrounding the affected nerve, known as the epidural space.
The steroids reduce inflammation around the nerve roots, thus decreasing pain. The local anesthetic can provide immediate pain relief. ESIs do not cure the underlying condition causing sciatica, but they can relieve symptoms for weeks to months, giving you time to progress with a rehab program pain free.
Depending on your response, the injection may be repeated for additional relief.
Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Michels today for more information about relieving and preventing sciatica symptoms. Call our office or request an evaluation online.