Sciatica is commonly caused by two conditions, bone spurs — abnormal bone growth — and disk protrusion — torn and bulging disks in the spine. These conditions can both put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica. This condition often presents with lower back and leg pain, and can be treated in a few different ways.
One way to treat sciatica is with over the counter painkillers. Anti-inflammatories such as Advil® and Aleve® can help with pain due to sciatica. If the pain is severe enough that you can't sleep, a prescription muscle relaxant can help at night. Cold packs can also reduce inflammation, while some people find it helpful to alternate hot and cold packs.
Physical therapy is another option. Since sciatica is often aggravated by stiffness and muscle spasms, physical therapy can cause flare-ups to be less frequent. Chiropractic care and massage can also help release muscle tension in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, which can lead to sciatica.
Stretching is another good way to relieve tension, which can be caused even by sitting at a computer all day. One good stretch involves sitting straight up in a chair and placing the left ankle on the right knee. Lean forward, moving your spine together as a unit, and hold the stretch for thirty seconds. Repeat on the other side. Stretching should be done every hour or two, and exercising can also help keep sciatica symptoms at bay.
Acupuncturists offer a different treatment option for sciatica sufferers. According to traditional Chinese medicine, sciatica is linked to a deficiency of kidney yin, which can weaken the back, degenerate bones and muscles, and stagnate qi. Acupuncturists say that they can restore balance to the kidney by a mixture of acupuncture and herbs.
If sciatica pain cannot be controlled by any of these methods, there are more aggressive treatments that can be performed by your doctor. Corticosteroids can be injected into the affected area to suppress inflammation. If the compressed nerves are causing more extreme problems, such as bladder incontinence or weakness, surgery may be required to correct the underlying problem. Usually this surgery is a diskectomy, the removal of part of a herniated disk, which is pressing on a nerve.