Sciatica - Symptoms and Diagnosis
Sciatic pain is most commonly felt on one side of the body in either leg as mild to sharp pain, and occasionally as bursts of shooting pain through the back of the leg. Pain may be accompanied by paresthesia ("pins and needles") and cramping, as well as intensified pain during back related activities including simple tasks like standing up from a seated position. Furthermore, muscle weakness along the nerve pathway in the leg, and/or weakness in the knee and ankle joints, may lead to difficulty walking.
In some cases, the sciatic nerve may be irritated to the point of the inability to control/retain bladder and bowel function. This symptom indicates that a group of nerves of the lower spine, the cauda equina, which is responsible for pelvic organ function, is irritated. As well, tingling and numbing may be experienced in the groin and genital area.
Generally, for sciatica and back pain, your doctor will perform a series of nerve function tests to isolate the source and area of your pain. You can expect a full physical examination as well- your doctor will look at the range of motion of your legs and back, noting the movements and areas that cause discomfort. As well, a reflex exam may be administered to determine knee and ankle strength. Further tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans and nerve conduction tests (testing the healthy response of specific nerves), may be requested by your doctor in order to determine the source of the pain.
Once diagnosed, finding relief for sciatica and back pain will include a visit to a chiropractor or physical therapist. Calming the muscle's reaction to the pain and relieving the stress on the nerve is crucial to obtaining effective relief. Sometimes, the treatment includes the use of sound wave technology such as our Personal Therapeutic Ultrasound System. See our treatments section for a more comprehensive look at our Ultrasound and compression wrap therapies.
Sciatica - Treatments
The journey to sciatica pain relief begins with obtaining a proper diagnosis from a doctor specializing in back pain/disorders. In many cases, sciatica is associated with over-exertion or a back injury. In these cases, it's important to determine if conservative measures including ice/heat therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, moderate stretching, and Ultrasound Therapy (such as our Personal Therapeutic Ultrasound System) are adequate. Conservative treatments are usually very effective. However, if you experience more serious symptoms like considerable loss of feeling and numbness, a loss of bladder and bowel control, muscle weakness or if the pain lasts and gets progressively worse, then get medical attention immediately. Bed rest has long been accepted as necessary for relieving back pain and sciatica. In more recent years, however, the long term benefits of bed rest have been challenged. While rest may temporarily relieve pain within the first day or two of an injury, prolonged bed rest may be detrimental to healing. Inactivity causes muscle atrophy (loss of muscle mass), muscle tightness and reduced blood flow in the back, all of which are disadvantageous for healing. Rather, treatments should be geared at maximizing mobility and maintaining back strength while taking care not to re-injure it.
Sciatica Treatment Options
Ultrasound - For more detailed information on how Ultrasound helps heal lower back pain and sciatica, see our About Ultrasound page. Essentially, Ultrasound Therapy provides stimulation to deep muscle tissue, which increases nutrient rich blood flow to the area. It has been found to aid distended connective tissue, which is important for stretching- this helps increase your range of motion for safer and more effective stretching and rehabilitation.
An Inferno Wrap Energy Device for the back is one of the most helpful tools for a wide variety of painful back-related problems. Through the use of the patented Energy Web, soft tissues are safely and gently heated- increasing oxygen and nutrient rich blood flow within the treated area. Your body's natural response to this increased temperature is to try to maintain a condition of homeostasis in a balanced environment (basically, your body increases blood flow to the heated area in an attempt to drop the temperature). With the rapid increase in blood flow to the area (a term known as vasodilation), there is an increase in the supply of oxygen and nutrients to injured cells, and toxins are flushed out (including lactic acid, commonly found in trigger points)- both of which promote healing. Our Inferno Wrap for the Back provides effective, non-invasive, non-addictive pain relief with no side effects.
Cold Wraps - Our "Freezie" Cold Compression Wraps allow you to actively treat yourself as part of the R.I.C.E. formula (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) within the first couple days of injuring your back. The coldness of the wrap effectively numbs the nerves in the treated area, which reduces pain!
Physical Therapy - Extension exercises may be part of the daily regimen recommended by your chiropractor or therapist. One exercise involves lying on your stomach in a prone position, and propping your upper body up on your elbows. Keep your hips on the floor and gently stretch by holding the position for up to 30 seconds if possible. This change in position from bending forward can temporarily relieve the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Advanced forms of extension exercises will be given as the inflammation causing sciatic nerve pain begins to resolve. The use of Ultrasound Therapy or our Inferno Wraps before stretching and exercising the lower back will help compensate for impaired movement, enabling a thorough stretch and/or workout.
Medication - Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are another possible sciatica treatment. Since sciatica is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve complex, reducing the swelling around the nerve endings is necessary for lowering the pain intensity. Anti-inflammatory medications are generally not as effective when used alone as when used in combination with other sciatica home treatments, such as exercise or Ultrasound Therapy. And besides, physical therapy like stretching and massage often provide the same pain relieving benefits as medication, but without any side effects.
Do you have more questions?
We encourage you to contact our office directly with any questions you may have or advice on treating your back injuries, whiplash injuries or sciatica. You can be assured all your questions will be answered in a thorough and courteous manner by our trained staff.
Feel free to email us at contact@AidMyBack.com.
Our toll free number is available during regular business hours - Continental US and Canadian 1-877-876-4588 or International Callers 705 445 3505
Our Office Hours
Monday to Wednesday 8:00am to 8:00pm (Eastern Standard Time)
Thursday and Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm (Eastern Standard Time)
We wish you a great day and we look forward to hearing from you.