Sciatica is a general term that refers to the symptoms indicative of some types of lower back pain and irritation of the nerves that run down one or both legs. It is often caused by compression of any of a number of nerves in the lower back and is in some cases synonymous with a pinched nerve. Since the term sciatica does not refer to the actual condition causing the pain, prescribed forms of sciatica relief vary greatly based on a doctor's diagnosis of the condition producing the symptoms. Depending on the diagnosis of the condition, sciatica relief may consist of prescription drugs, various types of non-surgical physical therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.
Due to the often temporary nature of sciatica, many less severe instances are easily treatable with prescription medication. Anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxant medications have a history of effectiveness in the treatment of sciatica and often, at least temporarily, resolve minor cases. For more intense sciatic pain, narcotics may be prescribed to alleviate the pain. In some cases, epidural steroid injections are administered to stimulate muscle development in the area, though their effects are often temporary.
Along with medication, and sometimes in place of it, varying types of physical therapy are often recommended for sciatica relief. Many doctors will prescribe sessions with a physical therapist to work on strengthening the core muscles to stabilize the back. Stretching exercises are also commonly demonstrated that patients can practice at home. Some doctors will recommend non-surgical spinal manipulation for sciatica, a treatment that some doctors perform in their own office. For overweight and obese patients, weight loss will almost always be suggested to ease pressure on the spine, usually in combination with physical therapy and stretching exercises.
Massage therapy, ultrasound, and various types of ergonomic work on proper body positioning have also shown some effectiveness in providing sciatica relief. Ergonomics additionally can function to prevent the recurrence of sciatica. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine may recommend acupuncture to remedy sciatic pain, and the type of treatment prescribed may largely depend on the type of medical practitioner consulted. For more extreme cases, surgery is sometimes suggested by medical professionals, although the results of surgery may only produce the same results as non-surgical treatment. In general, the type of sciatica relief that proves the most effective will largely depend on the specific condition in question, and, in some cases, on the specific patient in question.