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Successfully managing and treating sciatica

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Whilst there is sometimes no obvious explanation for the onset of this type of pain, it is frequently caused by a herniated disc pressing against the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. Other causes can be a pelvic injury or damage to the spine caused by trauma, such as being involved in a car accident. Another big cause of back injury is lifting heavy objects incorrectly as well as disc degeneration, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), piriformis syndrome and on rare occasions cauda equina syndrome. 

True sciatica is very rare but is often used as an umbrella term for people that experience similar type symptoms. The pain of sciatica often occurs on one side of the body. The symptoms can vary but the area of pain is typically felt around the lower back and travels down the leg to the calf. It can vary from a dull kind of pain or tingling to a very strong immobilising pain. It can sometimes feel worse after certain activities, such as long periods of standing or sitting, during the night, or even after coughing or sneezing.

Treatment for Sciatica

Treatment for sciatica varies according to its duration and severity. Sometimes no treatment is required and the pain goes away within a few days or weeks. For this type of pain, self-treatment with over-the-counter painkillers, regular exercise, and applying hot and cold packs can normally improve the symptoms. If the pain lasts for a longer period of time, sufferers may be advised to try physical therapy. An Osteopath, Physiotherapist or Sports Therapist will be able to advise.

When seeing a Healthcare Professional regarding sciatica, they will start by taking a clear history of the injury to get a better understanding of the root cause. They will then take you through certain movements and strength tests to find certain abnormalities or weaknesses that may need to be worked on. Depending on these results further imaging may need to be carried out. 

Stronger medication may also be prescribed for relief of pain. In certain circumstances, surgery may be used to control the symptoms. This may be required if the pain is continuing and a CT or MRI scan shows damage to a disc or bone. If this is the case, back surgery may be recommended. Surgery will normally be seen as a last resort after all other options have been explored.

Further from this, once a clear diagnosis and understanding of weaknesses is concluded your therapist will set personalised exercises to help improve flexibility, correct posture and strengthen any weak areas which are likely to be found in the lower back and glute regions. 

Prevention of Sciatica

In terms of prevention strategies, it is helpful to avoid long periods of sitting down or lying down with pressure on the buttock area. A way of preventing back injury and pain is learning how to lift and handle objects correctly. It is important for people to think before they lift to see if they can really cope with the amount. There are techniques that should be followed, such as lifting with the feet apart, letting the legs take the strain, and bending the knees and hips slightly but not squatting.

Some people find that making changes to their sleeping position helps in treating and preventing this type of pain. It is important to make sure that the mattress is comfortable and that pillows are arranged for support; a full body pillow may prove beneficial. People sometimes find it easier to be on their side with a pillow between their knees. A reclining chair may also be of help when resting and being mindful of keeping a good posture when sitting and standing to relieve stress through the spine. Make sure to maintain a healthy weight as well and exercise regularly to keep joints flexible and strengthen the core muscles. Exercises such as swimming and yoga are good forms of exercise as they are low impact. 

The pain of Sciatica

Whilst it is common for sciatica to go away on its own accord, the pain of sciatica can be very debilitating, especially if it goes on for a long period of time. Being aware of the different treatments available, both for self-treatment and under medical care, can often help shorten recovery time. Taking preventative steps, such as lifting things correctly and avoiding too much pressure on the back, can help to prevent this type of pain occurring too. Treatment modalities such as acupuncture are useful to relax tight muscles as well as improve blood circulation and regulate the nervous system in order to reduce pain. 

For more information about Sciatic Nerve Pain

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