When seeking medical attention for what one thinks is sciatica pain, our Atlanta orthopedic doctors begin by evaluating your muscle strength and reflexes. Some physicians test those areas by having you walk on your toes, or have you stand up from a squatting position as well as lifting your legs one at a time while lying flat on your back. If pain is present while performing these actions and movements the sciatic nerve could be to blame.
Sciatica pain could be occurring for many different reasons resulting in the need for a variety of different testing. An X-ray may be ordered to determine if there is a bone spur present which could be pressing on the nerve.
In some patients, a herniated disc may be the cause for sciatica pain and this is determined by the use of an MRI which allows for detailed images of the bones and soft tissues. For this test, you will lie flat on a table and slowly move into the MRI machine. When the spine needs to be evaluated, a CT myelogram may be ordered and that is when the dye is injected into the spinal canal and then circulated the spinal cord and nerves and then appear white on a scan.
If nerve compression is suggested, electromyography can help to test the response of your muscles. This test will determine if there is nerve compression caused by a herniated disc.
Not all sciatica pain will require medical attention as some can be treated at home, however, if home remedies are not successful, our Atlanta orthopedic doctors can provide you with our successful methods.
Medications that have proven to be successful in treating sciatic pain include:
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Anti-seizure medications
Teaming up with a physical therapist can help to rebuild your foundation as well as to help prevent future injuries. When working with physical therapy you will learn exercises that will help adjust your posture and strengthen your core, allowing for a strong back and increased flexibility.
If medications alone are not working, corticosteroid injections may be the next step. These injections are placed around the nerve root and help to suppress the pain as well as reduce inflammation. This treatment is usually effective, however, only lasts for a few months. Side effects can be risky if injections are done too frequently, so injections are only used so often.
If the compressed nerve causes complications such as loss of bowel or bladder control or weakness in an area despite all other efforts, surgery may be a viable option. Our surgeons would go ahead and remove the bone spur or herniated disc which was resulting in sciatica pain.
Many patients, however, can treat their sciatica pain without the above methods and use home remedies and self-care treatments from the comfort of their own home. Again, if symptoms persist beyond a few days and these self-care treatments do not prove to be effective, seek care from one of our highly skilled orthopedic doctors.
Other self-care treatments that might help include:
- When symptoms first become present, try using cold packs on the painful area while resting for periods of 20 minutes.
- After 2-3 days using hot packs on the lowest setting can help to alleviate some of the discomforts. The hot packs and cold packs can be used in an alternating fashion to provide the most relief.
- To alleviate nerve root compression best at home, stretching the lower back out can help you to find relief. When stretching, it is best to avoid bouncing and twisting when stretching as that can cause more harm. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and then move onto another stretch.
- Over-the-counter medications. Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are sometimes helpful for sciatica.
Alternative Approaches to Sciatica Treatment
Acupuncture is an approach where thin needles are placed into your skin at certain points all over your body. Some studies have shown that this method is an effective form of treatment and patients have shown improvement once having this whereas others have not. If looking to try this method, look for a licensed practitioner in the field.
Chiropractic care is a medical approach in which spinal manipulation is used to increase spinal mobility. The ultimate goal is to restore movement and decrease the patient’s pain. This method is a safe and effective treatment for those who suffer from lower back pain, however, this may not be as effective for those who have radiating pain.
Preparing for your appointment
If symptoms persist for more than a month, our Atlanta orthopedic doctors recommend seeking care from a physician to develop a sciatica treatment plan.
How to prepare:
- Write down your symptoms and when they began.
- List key medical information, including other conditions you have and the names of medications, vitamins or supplements you take.
- Write down any recent accidents or injuries that might have damaged your back.
- Write down any other questions you may have for the doctor.
Questions the orthopedic doctor may ask:
- Do you have numbness or weakness in your legs?
- Do certain body positions make your pain better or worse?
- Does the pain limit some activities?
- What type of exercises do you do?
- What treatments or self-care measures have you tried? Has anything helped?
Our Atlanta Orthopedics team is highly trained in a variety of sciatica treatment methods and calling us today can help you take a step in the right direction to get yourself on the road to recovery. Dial (404) 855-2141 for more information.