Sciatica pain starts when something in your body, often a herniated disk, is pressing on the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back down the back of your legs.
The good news is that most people with sciatica start to feel better within a few weeks. For some, though, the pain continues for a year or longer.
Fortunately, there are many strategies you can try for sciatica leg pain relief.
Exercises: Building up the muscles that support your spine and stretching the leg muscles involved in sciatica leg pain can help. A physical therapist can make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly so that you get the most out of them and don’t hurt yourself. If you’re in too much pain for exercise, steroid injections may bring you enough relief to get started.
Medication. Over-the-counter acetaminophen or nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen are enough to get many people through the pain. Other patients may need muscle relaxants, antidepressants, or opiate pain relievers, although medications must be taken with care to avoid becoming dependent on them.
Alternative therapies. Chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, and massage therapy are sometimes used either alone or in combination with other treatments to treat sciatica leg pain.
Epidural steroid injections. Some patients are able to get relief lasting three to four months from steroid injections.
Nerve blocks. Injection of nerve-numbing medication into the area that is the source of the pain may be recommended for some patients.
Radiofrequency ablation. In this minimally invasive procedure, nerve fibers in the back that carry pain signals are destroyed to block the pain.
Spinal cord stimulation. If other options aren’t working, your doctor may recommend spinal cord stimulation, in which a device that delivers mild electrical pulses is implanted near the spinal cord to block pain signals.
Surgery. Most patients with sciatica will not need surgery, but it can be an option if disabling pain isn’t responding to other treatments.
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