Exercises For Sciatica Relief

Sciatica is a painful condition that occurs when your sciatic nerve becomes damaged or compressed. Your sciatic nerve runs down your leg, and when it becomes compressed, symptoms can range from mild discomfort to major pain.

Sciatica is a condition that we see pretty regularly in our office, so when our colleagues at Pain Management & Injury Relief reached out to us about sharing an infographic they created that focuses on sciatica treatment, we thought it would be a great addition to our blog. A stretching routine combined with regular exercise is one of the best ways to control and combat sciatic nerve pain, so if you are dealing with shooting or tingling pain in your legs, check out the infographic below.

Also, for more information on treating sciatica pain or other chronic conditions, be sure to swing on over to PainInjuryRelief.com

Find Sciatica Relief with These Simple, Effective Stretches

Sciatica Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Sciatic Nerve PainSciatica is a term used to describe pain that radiates down the back of the leg. The name comes from the main large nerve, the sciatic nerve, that travels from the pelvis down the back of the leg. The sciatic nerve forms from the nerve roots in the lumbar and sacral region of the spine, and it is home to the motor and sensory nerves of the leg. The term sciatica is used to describe the sensation of pain in the leg generally from the buttock to the foot.

Causes of Sciatica

The causes of sciatica are numerous, and they are often the same causes of most low back and leg pain. Any structure that relays sensation through the sciatic nerve can produce sciatica pain. Low back, gluteal (butt), and leg muscles when irritated or strained, tendons, bones, and nerves can all produce these sensations. The pain can be acute or it can be chronic. Everyone describes their pain in different terms, as it is a personal experience. Most of these pains are self-limited, temporary and often resolve quickly within days with rest and possibly over-the-counter medications, heat or ice.

If the pain is due to trauma or is not resolving in a week or two, then seeing a physician may be worthwhile. The benefit of seeing a doctor is to get a good treatment strategy to resolve the problem as quickly and easily as possible. A full medical history, a history about the onset and course of the symptoms, and what has been done in treatment is necessary. An accompanying exam will include looking at the low back, pelvis, legs, and evaluating all the structures, including performing test of muscles, joints, nerves, and overall neurologic status. From a history and exam, a good physician can determine a starting diagnosis and treatment plan. 98% of the issues should resolve with good conservative treatment such as ice, heat, over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, massage and manipulation or adjustments.  X-rays, CT scans and MRI scans early on in treatment are usually not necessary.

Long-Term Treatment

If the sciatica is continuing despite conservative care for 6-8 weeks, then the skills of a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Pain Specialist can be especially beneficial. These physicians are experts in musculoskeletal medicine and can usually figure out what is wrong and the best treatment options for you that will help resolve the problems.  They also can determine if further tests are necessary such as MRI scans or nerve studies, and they can also perform specialized injections that may speed the healing. There are many physicians that treat back pain, but a Physical Medicine Pain Specialist has the added expertise needed to help find the conservative options and guide the decisions for the more complex problems when issues are prolonged.

Sciatica pain can be especially challenging, especially since 85% of the population does have this problem at some point in their lives. If the simple treatment is not working, the best solution is finding the expert with experience. Every person has different circumstances, and a pain specialist has the broadest set of tools to find the matching solution to each puzzle.

4 Common Causes of Leg Pain

leg pain treatment st. cloudOur legs are one of the most used parts of the body. We utilize them regularly – walking to work or school, and (hopefully) exercising on a regular basis. This constant use often leads to painful conditions. As with any pain, the first step to treatment is determining the exact cause of pain. With that in mind, here are 5 of the most common causes of leg pain:

  1. Sciatica & Low Back Pain. Sciatica is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve. It can create pain that starts in the lower back and radiates down through the buttocks into one or both legs. Read more about symptoms and treatment of sciatica.
  2. Shin Splints. Often the result of overuse and excessive amounts of exercise, shin splints are marked by sharp pain in your lower leg (usually after running). Generally shin splints can be effectively treated with rest and icing the shins.
  3. Peripheral Artery Disease. This condition occurs when blood vessels in the leg narrow, decreasing the amount of blood supply to the leg. A person with this disease will most often feel an aching pain when walking or exercising.
  4. Blood Clot. A blood clot is similar to peripheral artery disease in that it restricts blood flow. However, a blood clot is more severe since it completely blocks off an artery or vein, thereby cutting off blood supply. Depending on the location of the blood clot, treatment can include medications or injections to thin the blood, or surgery (in the worst cases).

Leg pain is common in many adults. Depending on the cause of the pain, it may or may not be cause for concern. If your leg pain does not go away with conservative treatment methods, or becomes severe, it’s important to seek out a physician right away.

Sciatica & Low Back Pain: Diagnosis and Treatment

sciatica treatment st. cloudSciatica is a term used to describe low back pain that usually radiates into one or both legs. If the pain is radiating down the leg, it is likely being generated from a structure associated with the lumbar spine.

Radicular low back pain is pain usually generated from the lumbar spine.  Rarely, it can be from surrounding structures, muscles and pelvic or lower abdomen organs.  Radicular pain can be caused by any of the following:

  • Lumbar Discs
  • Lumbar Facet Joints
  • Lumbar Vertebra
  • Lumbar Nerves
  • Sacroiliac Joints

All the above structures are linked to the lumbar spinal nerves, and when irritated, send signals to the brain that are perceived as pain in the low back that radiates into the buttock or leg. Pain can be felt on one or both sides of the body with this condition.

How to Identify Sciatica

There are several common symptoms that could indicate sciatica, including:

  • Lower back or leg pain (either sharp or chronic)
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in one or both legs, that may extend down to the toes
  • Pain in the buttocks

Generally, sciatica only results in pain on one side of the body rather than both. People who suffer from sciatica can have widely varying symptoms. Some people experience intense shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand or walk. Others feel a subtler and less frequent pain.

Sciatica Treatment Options

Most radicular low back pain is not serious.  The condition can generally be resolved by using conservative treatment methods, such as:

  • Ice and heat
  • Keep rest to a minimum – movement actually helps most structures to heal, allowing blood to flow to the region that carries the body’s own healing tools
  • Use over the counter medication to reduce pain

If the pain does not resolve within a week of trying these methods, then help from a primary care provider may be beneficial to obtain stronger medications and physical therapy.  No matter what you do, most sciatica pain will resolve within a month.

If radicular low back pain does not resolving in a month, the patient should consult with a Physical Medicine specialist, especially one board certified in Pain Medicine.  These physicians can listen to your symptoms, examine the muscles, spine and nervous system, determine what more testing is necessary and design an appropriate individualized treatment program for you.