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What is Sciatica

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Sciatica is a painful condition involving the largest nerve in the human body, the sciatic nerve. This nerve extends from the lumbar spinal cord down through the leg. When the nerve becomes irritated (sometimes due to pressure from a herniated disc) pain and numbness can radiate from the lower back down to the calf. Besides discomfort, sciatica is known to cause numbness in the lower regions of the body, as well as trouble controlling the affected leg. For many people suffering from sciatica the pain is debilitating, and impairs the performance of everyday tasks.

Treatments for sciatica

  • Painkillers. Anti-inflammatories such as Advil® and Aleve® can help. If the pain becomes so bad that it affects your sleep, a prescription muscle relaxant can help at night. Applying ice packs for 20 minutes at a time can also reduce inflammation, and some experts recommend alternating hot and cold packs for better results.
  • Physical therapy. Sciatica is often made worse by stiffness and muscle spasms. Physical therapy can reduce sciatic episodes by improving muscle tone and flexibility through the proper exercises.
  • Chiropractic treatment. Chiropractic treatment can maneuver the spine to ease pressure on the nerves and relieve pain. Chiropractors can also use massage to help release muscle tension in the lower back, buttocks, and legs.
  • Stretching. This can relieve muscle tension, which can be caused even by something as innocuous as sitting at a computer all day. Example: Sit straight up in a chair and place your left ankle on your right knee. Lean forward, and hold the stretch for thirty seconds. Repeat on the other side. Stretching should be done every hour or two to keep sciatica symptoms at bay.
  • Acupuncture. Some sciatica sufferers claim this ancient Chinese treatment offers relief.
  • Surgery. The good news about sciatica is that most people fully recover from it without surgery. In most cases the nerve is not permanently damaged, and individuals recover within three months. If surgery is needed, however, there are various options to consider. Consult with your doctor about what is available.

Sciatica is not a medical emergency, but it can be very painful. There are enough options out there that you should be able to find relief for your condition, with the help of a trained healthcare professional.

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