A correct approach to sciatica pain relief facilitates rapid relief and recovery of mobility. Sciatica is a neuralgia of the sciatic nerve, characterized by pain in the buttock and leg, tingling, burning and numbness of the hamstring. At that, sciatica is a pain symptom, and not an independent disease.
The most common cause of sciatica is an injury or trauma to the sacral spine. People, who suffer from sciatica, begin to limp, thus avoiding the transfer of their body weight to the aching leg. As a result, the load on the damaged intervertebral disc is distributed unevenly, which leads to its further destruction.
The nerve roots in the lumbar region form the sciatic nerve. Characteristic signs of sciatica are:
- numbness of limbs
- muscle spasms, muscle twitching
- impaired control of the function of the bladder or intestine
- partial or total loss of sensitivity on the foot and shin
- pulling, piercing pain in the lumbar region, buttock, hamstring, shin and foot
When the nerve is compressed, the pain extends into the buttocks area, under the knee, sometimes in the calf or the heel. Symptoms of sensitivity loss in the legs are very persistent, and numbness can persist for a long time. If sciatica is not treated for, this increases the risk of pathologies in intervertebral discs and nearby internal organs.
The problem of sciatica pain relief is complicated by the fact that nerve entrapment can be located in different places separately or in several places at the same time. The first place in which the compression of the sciatic nerve can be formed is the ending of the spinal cord. Nerve roots that come off its bottom give rise to the lumbosacral plexus and the sciatic nerve itself.
The second place, in which people can have the compression of the nerve roots, involved in the formation of the sciatic nerve, is the lumbar region, on the sides of the spine. Nerve endings can be squeezed by the muscles and edges of the vertebrae. And the third place is the pelvic area, where separate roots and/or the sciatic nerve itself can be compressed by the muscles of the buttocks.
Methods of sciatica pain relief are:
- therapeutic gymnastics
- physical and psychological relaxation
- correction of habitual incorrect movement patterns
- physiotherapy (including computerized reflexotherapy and cryotherapy)
Therapeutic gymnastics and physical activity are the first-line therapy for sciatica. The intensity of physical exercises is determined by the attending physician individually for each patient.
To ease the pain, people need to perform various exercises: mild, without sharp movements, tilt forward, backward, to the sides, so that the muscles of the lumbosacral section actively contract and stretch. Muscle activity improves blood circulation and gradually relieves pain.
To support the tone of the leg muscles, patient should make several squats daily. If a patient finds it difficult to balance, he can hold on to the back of the chair while making squats. Several slow squats per day are especially effective for sciatica pain relief during pregnancy.
For pharmacotherapy of sciatica, the drugs of choice are:
- muscle relaxants
- opioid analgesics
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
If oral analgesics are ineffective in sciatica pain relief, the attending physician uses Novocain injections. Injections are made as close to the sciatic nerve as possible by the method of lumbar puncture, which allows to locally influence the inflamed nerve and achieve a rapid and strong analgesic effect.
One of the most advanced and modern methods of sciatica treatment is cryotherapy. The method consists in alternating exposure to heat and cold on the lumbosacral region. In outpatient practice, cryo chambers are used. However, patient can independently achieve sciatica pain relief at home.
For cryotherapy at home, people use plastic bags with basic salt solution. After freezing in a refrigerating chamber, patient should apply the bag to his low back and perform light slow rotational movements. The skin turns pale at first, and then starts to redden quickly.
Exposure to cold should be discontinued with intense skin reddening. Patient must put aside the package with ice, warm the reddened area and wait until the skin regains its natural color. The rest time is selected individually – 2 to 15 minutes. Then, the procedure can be repeated, again until the skin turns red. Two repetitions are sufficient for one cryotherapy session.
In addition to the use of analgesics, cryotherapy and physical activity, the auxiliaries for sciatica pain relief treatment can be:
- special orthopedic pillows
- creams and ointments for topical application
- devices for computer reflexotherapy and percutaneous electrical neural stimulation (PENS)
Errors that patients make in sciatica pain relief treatment:
- Take analgesics for more than 3-4 days. There is no need to take painkillers for prevention or when the pain symptoms begin to decrease.
- They try not to move at all. Full immobility is necessary only when the pain is unbearable. However, if the pain symptoms are periodic, then moderate physical exertion is required to alleviate them.
- Independently perform exercises that they think can promote sciatica pain relief. Since many patients are not aware of all the features of the location of the muscles and ligaments relative to each other, they perform wrong exercises that can aggravate the pain symptoms.