Sciatica is a medical condition characterized by numbness and tingling in one or both legs and is caused by damage to the sciatic nerve. Sciatica itself is a symptom instead of an illness and can be a result of many different conditions, including muscle strains, joint problems, or virtually any type of pelvic injury. While it is important to seek medical attention to find the reason behind sciatic nerve pain, there are several available sources of sciatica help. Some forms of sciatica help involve the use of ice therapy, gentle exercise, and pain medications.
Sciatica pain often begins as a mild ache that may sometimes evolve into excruciating pain that makes movement difficult. This pain typically starts near the hip, with the sufferer then feeling a burning or stinging type of pain that may radiate down the back of the leg and then toward the front of the leg. This pain often worsens when the person spends long amounts of time in one position. Even simple things such as coughing or sneezing often cause the pain to worsen.
One of the simplest sources of sciatica help involves applying ice to the affected area as soon as possible once the pain begins. An ice pack should be applied to the affected area three or four times per day in 15-minute intervals for the first 48 hours. After that, many people prefer to use a heating pad instead of an ice pack at the same intervals.
Since damage to the sciatic nerve invariably causes pain, most people look to pain medication as a source of sciatica help. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help to relieve some of the discomfort, especially if the pain levels are minimal. In many cases, however, prescription-strength pain medications are needed. This type of moderate to severe pain is often what convinces a person to consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Mild stretching exercises can frequently be an excellent source of sciatica help. In fact, many doctors recommend physical therapy to patients suffering from this condition. It is important to note that in some cases of severe bone or joint problems these exercises may actually cause more damage to the sciatic nerve. For this reason, no new exercise program should be started without physician approval. Severe sciatic nerve damage or damage to surrounding structures or tissues may require surgery.