What Causes Sciatica? 3 Nonsurgical Treatment Options

  • Orthopedic Surgeon
  • back pain
  • February 2, 2021

Read Time: 7 minutes Sciatica can cause pain, tingling, and numbness down the backs of the legs. Nonsurgical treatment options can help patients find relief.

Up To 40% Suffer From This Type Of Nerve Pain

The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down the backs of the legs. When this nerve becomes pinched or inflamed, this pain is referred to as sciatica. Causes of this nerve pain can vary. Experts estimate that up to 40% of people experience sciatic nerve pain at some point in a lifetime.

What Causes Sciatica 3 Nonsurgical Treatment Options

Causes and symptoms

The origins of sciatica can vary. Most commonly, the pain is caused by a herniated or slipped disc. Other causes can include spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. The primary symptom of sciatica is pain radiating down the backs of the legs. People can also experience tingling or numbness in the legs, feet, and toes. This pain can range in level of severity. Fortunately, there are nonsurgical treatment options to help patients find relief.

1. Physical therapy

Physical therapy uses a combination of strengthening and stretching to help patients move more functionally and experience less pain. The goal of physical therapy for sciatica is to increase core strength, strengthen the spine and lower back, and stretch tight muscles, such as the hamstrings. The specific exercises a physical therapist prescribes may be specific to the underlying cause of the sciatic pain.

2. Injection options

Many patients benefit from injections for pain relief. One of the most common types of injections is an epidural steroid injection. The purpose of this injection is to help control inflammation and decrease the creation of inflammatory cells. Doctors may opt for this treatment if the sciatic pain is caused by herniation, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. Alternatively, physicians may opt for a selective nerve root block, which serves to numb the pain at the nerve root.

3. Medications

For mild to moderate cases of sciatica, either over-the-counter or prescription medication may be an effective treatment option. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral steroids, or anticonvulsant medications are some common options. Often, doctors will prescribe pain medication in conjunction with physical therapy.

Preventing sciatica

Certain risk factors will put patients at a higher risk of developing sciatica. People age 30-50 are more likely to experience this nerve pain, as are people who have professions that require a lot of heavy lifting. In contrast, patients who are sedentary and sit for long periods are more likely to develop sciatica than those who are active.

Find relief today

Sciatica can be frustrating and painful. Fortunately, there is a range of treatments available, including nonsurgical options. Speak with a spine specialist to learn more about the causes of sciatica and to find treatment.

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